Originally built for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, and in turn the site of the Olympic Games in 1948 and the football World Cup Final in 1966, the old Wembley Stadium was the most important sports and entertainment venue in Britain. The challenge in reinventing it for a new century was to build on that heritage and yet create a venue that would be memorable and magical in its own right. With 90,000 seats, standing almost four times the height and covering twice the area of the original, the new stadium is the largest covered arena in the world. Facilities are designed to maximise spectator enjoyment; seats are larger than the old ones, with more leg-room; the highest tiers are easily accessed via escalators; and the concourse that wraps around the building provides catering for up to 40,000 spectators at any one time. One of the things that make the stadium special is the retractable roof, which ensures that the spectator experience is comfortable in all weathers.
When the roof is open it ensures that the turf gets sufficient sunlight and air to maintain perfect condition, while in poor weather it can be closed to cover the entire seating bowl. The roof is supported structurally by a spectacular 133 meter high arch that soars over the stadium, providing an iconic replacement for the old building’s twin towers; conceived as a triumphal gateway, floodlit at night it is a strong symbol for the new Wembley and a new London landmark. The stadium is designed to be ideal for football. Its geometry and steeply raked seating tiers ensure that everyone has an unobstructed view. To recreate the intimate atmosphere and the distinctive ‘Wembley roar’ for which the old stadium was famous, the seats are located as close to the pitch as possible. Yet the building has also been consciously ‘future proofed’, with the ability to host a variety of events, including international track and field events to Olympic standard if required.
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