Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium quickly established itself as one of the Premier League’s finest venues when it opened in 2006. Despite this instant success, the North London club hasn’t been resting on its laurels since, having continued to make improvements to the ground, particularly over the summer when significant development work took place.
“We implemented a range of improvements during the close season, including the completion of the first half of our Club Level development,” explains Tom McCann, Head of Premium Sales, Service and Operations. “We built half a row of extra seats on the front of our existing Club Level tier, expanding its capacity by around 400 seats in the process. It was an ambitious project, not only from a construction and engineering point of view, but also in terms of timing, as all the work had to be completed before the new season kicked off.”
The fact that Arsenal were able to meet the deadline underlines the strength of the planning programme that was put in place. “Obviously we couldn’t start construction until the season ended in May but prior to that we had been developing the plan for around 18 months,” adds Mr McCann. “This ensured that we were all crystal clear about what we were looking to achieve, what the potential challenges were, and the timeframe we were working to. Thankfully this preparation paid off.
“We also took the opportunity to invest in the facilities as well, so we completely refurbished and re-developed our Dial Square Bar, which is one of the biggest bars in the ground. We were able to raise the bar of informal dining in the stadium by introducing a chicken rotisserie and an open flamed pizza oven, which I believe is the first within the Premier League. We also have a range of craft beer and a courtyard where people congregate, so we’ve been able to take what was previously a relatively unimaginative space and transform into a real statement for the ground.”
Having worked so hard to get everything ready for the new season, Arsenal have been reaping the rewards as it has been able to sell out the additional seats. “Take-up has been fantastic, which enabled us to make a great start to the new season, particularly as we sold out Club Level. Usage of the bar has significantly increased in comparison to last season too, while we are also much busier before and after the games. The feedback from our supporters has been extremely positive and this is vital because every change we make is designed to be of benefit to our fans.”
Whilst the close season stadium developments have been an undoubted success, Arsenal is already planning further improvements for next summer. “The work we carried out last summer was ambitious and we will be continuing in the same vein next summer when we will be building the second half of the additional seats at Club Level,” outlines Mr McCann. “Having already completed the first half we know what to expect from a construction point of view, although we are conscious that we will have to sell those additional seats.
“We also have other investment plans for the stadium, as we continue to invest in our facilities for next season. This includes re-developing the Highbury restaurant, which has traditionally been our entry level a la carte and buffet restaurant. We have identified a shift in the hospitality market away from formal sit down dining towards shared social spaces, so we will be completely redeveloping the restaurant to reflect the growing demand for street food and food market options. “The objective is to have a range of different food offerings to suit every requirement and every budget. This is why we’re also looking to make improvements for our GA (General Admission) customers too, with the addition of pre-match drink offers and more television screens so that there’s increased opportunities to view replays for everyone within the stadium.”
“In addition, this summer we will build a new private members club on Executive Box Level, called The Avenell Club. This facility will offer wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling glass, with panoramic views of the pitch, complete with a London-style cocktail bar and live chef stations. The Avenell Club will be the most versatile hospitality experience in the stadium and will represent a further evolution of our hospitality proposition.”
Manchester City may be currently setting new standards in terms of the football they’re playing, but off the pitch Arsenal continue to lead the Premier League when it comes to improving its fans’ match day experience.