‘We’ve changed stadium tech, ours is the best in the world’: How the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium redefines the fan experience

PSNEurope takes a behind the scenes look at the new Spurs stadium and speaks to club staff and Harman execs about its complex audio spec
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The opening fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace

The opening fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium: a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace

On April 3, the new home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur officially opened for business, after an extended development period of nearly two years. PSNEurope editor and lifelong Spurs fan Daniel Gumble drew the long straw and was given a tour of the venue to check out its vast and complex audio specification 24 hours before its grand opening…

The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium looms over Tottenham high road like something that’s arrived from outer space. It’s metallic grey and glass exterior is punctured with hundreds of fine slithers of purple light, illuminating the surrounding streets and prompting the masses outside to take photos and stop for selfies in its glow. The roar of the 59,000-strong crowd inside before kick off at the first official match at the team’s new home is ear-splittingly loud. The (very) few who aren’t in full voice as the home side prepares to take on visiting London rivals Crystal Palace look awestruck by the occasion, such is the sense of anticipation gripping all in attendance. 

The date, April 3, 2019, will indeed go down as one of the most significant in the club’s history; its new state of the art home sending a clear statement of intent to the rest of the footballing world. As many football fans will be aware, it’s a night that’s been a very long time coming. For those fortunate enough to have secured a ticket, it’s one they’ll never forget.

When construction started on the club’s new home back in the summer of 2017, a temporary stay at London’s Wembley Stadium was mooted to last until approximately September 2018. A series of technical issues and problems arising from the new stadium’s critical safety system, however, triggered numerous setbacks, resulting in a far longer than expected spell away from the Tottenham faithful’s home territory (a subject that the club and virtually all involved have refused to elaborate on, although a Harman spokesperson did confirm to PSNEurope in January that the delay “was not connected to the audio installation”).

Rumours circulated that the new stadium’s grand opening may be pushed back until the 2019/20 season, causing unease and uncertainty around the club and adding further still to the desire of everyone associated with it to get into their new home. And as the final whistle blew on the opening fixture - a 2-0 victory - the unanimous verdict among the fans was that the wait had been well worth it.

Rewind 24 hours and PSNEurope is stepping out from the tunnel and on to the touchline at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A tour of the venue’s world class facilities ensues, in which we are filled in on, among all manner of technical specifications that single it out as one of the most advanced stadia on the planet, its all important audio set up.

In July 2018 it was revealed that Harman Professional Audio Solutions would be the official audio supplier for the stadium, from the bowl and hospitality areas through to the dressing rooms and the extensive array of bars and restaurants and everything else in between. With a brief issued to deliver the best, most technologically sophisticated stadium in the world, Harman’s Ryan Penny, senior business development manager, large venue, EMEA, says the company was always confident it could deliver on the astronomically high expectations set by the club.

“We’ve been very lucky to work with a fantastic client who hired a fantastic design team, and who have had the vision and design expertise to see the opportunities to maximise the use of the technology; to pull ideas from other industries, venues and other types of building and deliver them into this stadium,” he tells PSNEurope in the stadium’s media cafe, where first team coach Mauricio Pochettino can also be seen chatting with backroom staff over a coffee. “We have a huge amount of experience in large venues. We’ve been the market leader in that space for many years, especially in the US, but also in the EU and the Middle East, so we felt comfortable that we had the technology to deliver. Obviously, this stadium has a brand new system in the bowl, and it was certainly a challenge to make sure we delivered that to the quality and specifications they needed, and ensure it was the best system they could have. From all reports so far, everyone’s expectations have been met.”

The system in question is comprised of 156 JBL VLA-C2100 loudspeakers and 72 JBL VLA-C125S subwoofers, all powered by Crown DCi Multi-channel Dante amplification (full spec can be seen at the foot of the page).

Penny continues: “Around the rest of the venue it’s been about taking great products from our portfolio and being able to deliver sound that meets the expectations of all those different areas. So, for example, in here (the media cafe) we have pendant speakers from our Control 60 series, in the auditorium/press conference space we have AC16s and CBT speakers. It’s a large scale project but our position in the audio sector means we were comfortable in the delivery of most of those products.”

In addition to the extremely ambitious nature of the project, Penny also highlights frequent changes to the original brief as one of the biggest challenges the company faced.

“The desires of the club changed quite a lot, so we had to be quite dynamic and flexible in our approach,” he explains. “Most of those changes were around the hospitality spaces. These are often owned or managed by stakeholders. So as areas were redesigned there were needs to change. The press conference area is a good example, where the ceiling design was very architecturally lead. We had to work around that to make sure we could deliver. The screen in the auditorium space is a Daktronics LED direct view screen, but traditionally in that kind of space it would be a projector with cinema grade speakers mounted behind the screen. We had to move out to the side of that and use quite a narrow space to put a large speaker in.”

One of the major concerns for the club when moving into its expansive new home was ensuring that the intense atmosphere that defined the old White Hart Lane ground would not be lost. Like many old-fashioned stadia, the stands at White Hart Lane were extremely close to the pitch, with the more compact nature of the venue helping to amplify the volume of the crowd. In order to retain that atmosphere in the new space, the acoustic design was crucial.

“One of the members of the design team, Vanguardia Consulting, essentially looked after everything, in collaboration with stadium architecht Populous, from the acoustics of the bowl space through to the sound system design, so it was a holistic approach,” says Penny. “It wasn’t a traditional approach, where the acoustics are done by one person and the sound system is done by someone completely different. They always had the consideration that they must maintain atmosphere in the bowl whilst also making it suitable for speech reproduction for safety and music reproduction for performance and entertainment. Trying to get into that golden sweet spot where you have a reverberation time in the bowl that it creates a fan experience but doesn’t becomes overwhelming and loses clarity from a sound system perspective was key.”

According to Penny, Harman’s work in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium provides a fitting showcase of its capabilities with venues of such scale.

“We’re in a position where we can use the space to highlight what audio can do for a venue like this when working to the level of granularity and quality that has been delivered here,” he offers. “You could just take a stadium concourse in the traditional sense, place very few speakers to get the coverage required, and that’s it. That’s the traditional approach. What’s been achieved here is the creation of a much more intelligent system that can change depending on the usage of the space with a ‘365 venue’ nature.”

Also keen to shine a spotlight on the stadium’s highly complex AV element is head of technology at Tottenham Hotspur Sanjeev Katwa. Having also spent time working at fellow Premier League club Manchester City, his experience in this area is vast, and he’s certain the standard that’s now been set in north London will have a ripple effect around the globe.

“We’ve changed technology in stadiums,” he tells PSNEurope. “Our venue is definitely the best stadium in the world. I’ve worked in two venues for two football clubs, and what we’ve done here is exceed everything I ever imagined. It’s been helped with the partners we’ve chosen and every partner has been chosen on their capabilities - we’ve not just chosen partners like some clubs have for commercial reasons. It wasn’t easy to win our business. We’ve looked at new technologies and audio is a good example. In the bowl we went with Harman’s newest speakers, which were not even out at the time, so we were prepared to take that risk and the feedback so far has been good. On the AV side it’s been a five year journey. The difference between AV in this venue compared to any other is that we have an integrated IP-based solution. That’s huge.”

At the time of this issue going to press, the feedback on everything from the stadium’s acoustics and sound system to the AV and tech capabilities has been positive across the board, from fans and players to club staff and football pundits. Time will tell how the venue copes with the NFL matches that are scheduled for the future, along with the eventual hosting of concerts and other large-scale events. But for now, it would appear a new standard has been set.

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in numbers:

The bowl

156 JBL VLA-C2100 Loudspeakers
72 JBL VLA-C125S Subwoofers
All powered by Crown DCi Multi-channel Dante amplification.

Press conference room
2 JBL CBT 1000 (left and right of the LED Wall)
4 JBL ASB6112 – compact high power subwoofer
12 AC16 JBL surround speakers + additional for PAVA in the ceiling soffit
All Powered by Crown DCi Multi-Channel amplification and BSS Soundweb Blu DSP processing

Concourse/hospitality and BOH

A total of 4000 various loudspeakers from the JBL installation portfolio including:

o Control 10 Series – Ceiling Speakers
o Control 40 Series – Premium Ceiling Speakers
o Control 60 Series – Pendants
o Control 25 & 28

Atrium

Over 30 AM5212/64 – due to high ceilings and large areas of coverage

Mixing Consoles

Soundcraft Vi1000
Studer Micro (in THFC Production Gallery)

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