Stadium capacity in the UK got a boost when London won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games. All sports looked to their laurels because the region would need not only a great Olympic Stadium but other venues would host such sports as football and tennis. An analysis of the top 10 stadiums in the UK shows how sports play a strong part in business and building, not only football but rugby and cricket, tennis and racing.
Wembley is the UK's most iconic stadium, home of the 1948 Olympic Games, which were the second time the event was held in Britain. Its complete demolition and rebuild in the early 2000s saw the end of the classic two towers and the appearance, at the opening in 2007, of a classic arch; at 315 metres it is the longest single span roof structure in the world. The 90,000 fans pour through 164 turnstiles, many coming on the 100 trains per hour that can arrive at the three stations serving the ground -- home of English football.
London's Olympic Stadium can hold 80,000 for the 2012 event but was set to revert to 60,000 as the post-games home of West Ham football club.The stadium has 532 floodlights, on 14 lighting towers, more than usual, to ensure adequate light for high-definition television broadcasting. A cable net roof will protect two-thirds of the spectators who will arrive onto a concourse surrounded on three sides by water, giving an island-like appeal. Construction started in May 2008 at the East London Olympic Park and it is the lightest, and probably greenest, Olympic Stadium ever built.
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Cardiff's large-capacity (74,500) Millennium Stadium was built on the site of the much-loved Cardiff Arms Park. It opened in 1999 and boasted the first retractable roof in the UK. The three-tier stadium in central Cardiff is synonymous with rugby but has hosted FA Cup finals during Wembley's rebuild and was set to host the football competition in the 2012 Olympic Games. In keeping with Welsh singing tradition, it also holds rock and other concerts, thanks to a partition drape system on the pitch.
Wimbledon's Centre Court is arguably the most prestigious tennis venue in the world and thus vital for inclusion in a list of UK stadiums. Its capacity increased to 15,000 in 2009, when the organisers also added a fully retractable roof, obviating the rain delays that can plague the two weeks of Wimbledon. Wimbledon was set down as the venue for the Olympic Games tennis matches.
Lords Cricket Ground
Lord's is the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club and cricket itself. It's the largest capacity cricket ground in the UK, at 30,000. It opened in 1814 and, understandably, has undergone several alterations since. The dominant terra-cotta pavilion dates back to 1890 and affords players and members a great view behind the stumps. Opposite the pavilion, at the Nursery End, two low-level stands were built in 1990, while square of the wicket, on either side, are the main grandstand (1997) and the Tavern (1967).
Aintree Grand National
Home of one of the world's most classic horse races, the Grand National Steeplechase, Aintree has a number of huge stands that designate a major stadium, by any definition: The Princess Royal Stand, The County Stand, The Queen Mother Stand, The Earl of Derby Stand and The Lord Sefton Stand give the ground a capacity of 150,000. The course's history began in 1829 and improvements over the years have continued, up until 2012 when three fences were lowered to improve horse safety.
Twickenham Stadium is the home of England rugby and some would say of the world's. Only Wembley surpasses its 82,000 capacity and it is the largest solely rugby stadium in the world. It is home to the World Rugby Museum, the finest collection of rugby memorabilia in the world. It was set down to host 2015 World Rugby Cup final, as soon as England won the right to stage the tournament. Twickenham, like other major stadiums, has the capacity to host music concerts.
The largest club football stadium outside of Wembley, Manchester United's home at Old Trafford can hold 75,000. Fans walking to the ground along the Sir Matt Busby way will remember the hand this iconic former manager had in restoring Old Trafford after World War II bomb damage. It first opened in 1910 and upgrades since have turned it into the modern ground befitting a European superclub under manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Matt Busby's statues stands outside, along with great players of the past.
At 60,832, Celtic Park is the largest football stadium in Scotland and the third largest in the UK. Also known at Parkhead, Celtic Park is, naturally enough, home of the Glasgow side Celtic. It's an all-seater stadium, in keeping with modern stadiums everywhere, and its outside statuary include the inspiring figure of former manager Jock Stein. The first grandstand, built in 1898, burned down in 1927. The most recent upgrade was completed in 1998, making it one of the best-capacity grounds in Europe.
Belfast's Windsor Park is Northern Ireland's largest stadium, for football or any other sport. The current capacity is 20,000, with 14,000 seated but the capacity was much higher, at 60,000, in the 1930s. Then large uncovered terraces accommodated fans on the northern bank and behind the eastern goal. Improvements to seating gradually reduced the ground's capacity but it still hosts Northern Ireland's international matches and is home ground for the club side Linfield.
- Mirror: London 2012: Olympic Stadium facts and figures
- Wembley: Stats and facts
- Millennium Stadium: Information
- World Stadia: Wimbledon
- ESPNCricinfo: Lord's
- The Grand National; Grand National Enclosures
- RFU: Twickenham Stadium
- Stadiums Football: Man Utd- Old Trafford
- Stadium Guide: Celtic Parl
- TVTrip: Windsor Park- Linfield (Ireland