Monday, 21 November 2011

Retractable Seating: What can be learnt from Stade De France

Perhaps the most well known stadium to use retractable seating is the Stade De France. It is the national stadium of France which hosts Football, Rugby and Athletics.

The retractable seating accommodates 25 000 seats. It is reached by the level 1. It may move 15 feet to reveal all of the running track and jumping pits. It then retains 22 000 seats. The movement takes 80 hours using 40 people. 

However there is one fundamental difference between Stade Du France and the Stratford Olympic Stadium. The Stade Du France was designed from concept with retractable seating in mind, the Stratford Olympic stadium has not, in fact only 25,000 seats were designed to be permanent. This was a massive oversight and failure by the Olympic Park Legacy Company.

Redesigning the stadium to accommodate retractable seating will not be simple. Put simply it means dropping the running track and pitch by as much as 15 feet or the seating by a similar height. Both would be costly. Not to graduate seating would seriously compromise sight lines.

The second obstacle is the roof which does not cover the running track. Extending the roof within the current design or adding a retractable roof would be difficult and costly. We may have to accept that any retractable seats would have to be wet seats open to the elements.

In the old days we had uncovered terraces and recently I attended a league 2 at AFC Wimbledon in the front row where I got drenched after a sudden down pour. People pay to get wet at places like Sea world in Florida so you never know it may become an attraction.

There are no simple solutions and while it is good that David Gold now says retractable seating is an integral part of any move to the Olympic stadium I believe it will both difficult and costly to achieve.

   Stade De France configured for a football match with retractable seating in place

    Stade Du France Retractable Seating 

   Stade De France for Athletics Event with


Virtual Tour of Stade De France on Youtube


  1. Peter AFC Wimbledon4 March 2012 at 19:11

    Interesting post - where did you get that picture on the stade de france? I hope the Hammers get the Olympic Stadium. An opportunity was lost at the design stage of the olympic stadium by not incorporating football in the design...sadly the arrogance of athletic supporters means a fair amount of money will have to be spent to make the stadium football friendly and viable in the long term. I think the concept of retractable seating is the best idead but whether this is possible is one for the architects and structural engineers. Also think it would be good if part of the stadium is opened up so that you get a vista of the city of London. It would look great there and on tv and would also create a better backdrop for non sporting events. If you look at some of the newer stadiums in the US they have long gone away from building complete bowl stadiums such as the LA Colloseum or Three Rivers Stadium to newer stadiums such as Lucas Oil Field and CenturyLink Field.

    1. West Ham would be in real danger of ending in a stadium that is severely compromised with poor sightlines for football, no atmosphere and "wet seats". This is because the cost of the changes needed to make it a state-of-the-art modern football ground like the Emirates or the Allianz Arena would be astronimically high. Integrating retractable seating into a stadium that was never designed for it, building an independently supported roof structure that would have to be about the same size as Wembley's to cover all the spectators (because of the distance from the back of the upper tier to the pitch side) and creating hosptiality facilities would be a huge undertaking, more or less like starting again in fact. I predict that at some point West Ham's board will have to see sense and back down from this vainglorious plan. It is worrying that politicians and supposedly successful business people can be quite so blinkered. The fact that West Ham are not a massive club and would be unlikely to fill the place regularly has also been ignored. Spurs actually had the right idea to knock it down and start again. The problem with that of course is that because the Olympics was such a big success, no one would have the will to do that. So why not leave it as it is for athletics while West Ham concentrate on redeveloping the remaining old stand at the Boleyn ground?

  2. Your incorrect in stating that the pitch would need to be "dropped" in order for such a design to work. Its actually the Stade De France that suffered from poor sight lines in athletics mode because the stands are too steep with the lower teir pushed in so far. The London staduim would have the disadvanatge that the upper teir would be further away than it needs to be but sight lines would not be a problem.

    Having attended the stadium my feeling is that even this isnt a big issue, because the seats are not the giant size were used to in modern football stadiums the stands arent actually that deep, even at the back at an end where i was the pitch wasnt that distant.