Cool Things To Do With Old Football Stadiums

Rebekah Valero-Lee morson sport


This week, we continue our Premier League construction theme back in North London. We take a look at alternative, and clever, things you can do with abandoned football stadiums besides building supermarkets on top of what are considered by thousands to be sacred monuments.

We’re Coming For You

A few editions ago, we wrote a feature on Tottenham saying goodbye to White Hart Lane and hello to White Hart Lane Mark II, looking at the engineering behind their new home as it’s being built. While Spurs continue to play their home games at Wembley this season, their attentions turn elsewhere in London this weekend with a trip to their fierce rivals Arsenal. The most recent meeting between the two sides took place on 18 November 2017 at the Emirates, with the Gunners coming out 2-0 winners.

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Arsenal were undeniably the dominant force in North London. Arsene Wenger bought titles and FA Cups, as well as the famous ‘invincibles’ side, who went 49 games without defeat.
Until the 2016/17 season, Tottenham hadn’t finished above Arsenal in the league since 1994/95, a bizarre Premier League season which saw shock outfit Blackburn Rovers lift the title, the old defunct Wimbledon finish 9th, and a world class professional footballer kung-fu kick a supporter in the gut.
They’ve been close several times before, and in recent years the gap was closing as such that it really did seem like it was only a matter of time. In the 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2015/16 seasons the gap was just one point between the two sides (although in the case of 12/13, the Gunners managed to keep their bitter rivals out of the Champions League with that single extra point). In 2017, Tottenham completed their last ever season at White Hart Lane by finishing 11 points ahead of Arsenal, the delirious cheers of their supporters only just drowning out the calls of “Wenger Out” a few miles away. The tide seems to be shifting in North London.

Building the Emirates

In 2006, Arsenal left their historic and characterful Highbury home and moved to a 60,000-seater red bowl known as the Emirates just around the corner. Rather than heralding a brand new era of success (as was the plan with expanding capacity) this new home was actually a harbinger of a now legendary trophy drought.

The location of the new stadium was Ashburton Grove, a largely dilapidated industrial estate that was cleared ahead of construction beginning in 2004. Construction company Sir Robert McAlpine also removed 25,000m³ of contaminated soil. Employing more than 1,000 workers, the stadium took around two years to complete. The hardest part was the construction of three bridges to allow pedestrian access to the site – one of which was the sole point of access for construction equipment and materials, like the 10,000 tonnes of reinforced steel, 60,000m³ of concrete and 15,000m² of glass that make up the stadium.

The engineers cleverly used the existing stand structure to create apartments

Not a Tesco

Traditionally, old football stadiums seem to have a habit of being bulldozed and replaced by shiny new supermarkets, or occasionally housing estates that remove any trace of what lay before barring the odd homage in the name of a street.

What was done at Arsenal’s old Highbury site, however, was different. While now a block of apartments, the “Highbury Square” complex preserves a lot of the infrastructure of the stadium, with the apartments built into the structure of the West and East stands along the sides. The pitch area has been transformed into a garden area, so those in the stand flats can look out over what was once a hallowed patch of turf for many people. It’s difficult to argue that the design isn’t impressive and a clever and ingenious balance between a new purpose and a homage to the past.

Left – Highbury hosts its final game in 2006 with the new Emirates looming. Right – Highbury several years later


Two shots from similar angles show just how much the stadium is preserved.

Fancy living in the Highbury complex? Prices can be as high as £800,000 for a 2-bed flat, so if you happen to be a Premier League footballer you’re in luck. Doubt many Spurs players would be interested though.

A League of Their Own

In the Morson League, we have to tip our hats to the consistency of several teams as we go into the winter months. Client service director Steve Seddon’s Stevie’s Wonders side may have slipped down to 12th but has been one of the top performers throughout the season so far. Special mention to fleet manager David Robinson’s Looney Toons United who have surged into the top five from mid-table obscurity. It’s probably something to do with Mohamed Salah’s selection and captaincy bringing in 30 points on his own, otherwise known as 5/6ths of this writer’s Gameweek total.

Sir Robert McAlpine are one of our construction clients. Find out how you can be part of their upcoming projects here