Improving fan experience for the next 25 years and beyond was the key driver in Twickenham’s £76m makeover prior to last year’s Rugby World Cup. The result has not only boosted fan engagement but promoted the stadium to its new status as one of the most technically-advanced in the world.

Leading the way on many pioneering technical improvements, Twickenham is clearly not afraid to venture into new territories. Its move has led to a slicker, smoother and more cost-effective operation with huge knock on benefits to the fans.

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Richard Knight is responsible for the operational efficiency and site wide operations of Twickenham

Stadium Director, Richard Knight explained that although last year’s Rugby World Cup provided the catalyst for the recent major works, investment in fan engagement was at the forefront of the move, along with a pressing need to improve the infrastructure of the 82,500-seater stadium.

“Our investment was two-fold. We recognised the limitations of the stadium which is 25+ years old and showing signs of wear and tear. The other element was very much around improving the experience not only for the World Cup but for the next 25 years as well. We do want to be at the forefront of developing the fan experience.”

Part of the £76m spend went into improving the overall infrastructure, i.e. mechanical, electrical and water improvements, as well as making sure the stadium worked together as one venue, rather than on a stand by stand basis.  An IT backbone of cables and hub rooms led to digital and fan engagement upgrades and a further sizeable chunk of around £15m went into boosting technology including:

• The addition of mid tier LED boards – a move that was a first for a UK stadium;
• Access to Wifi in public areas but, at this stage, excluding the stadium bowl;
• Installation of two roof-hung LED screens – each measuring 169 sqm – providing fans with replays as well as match statistics.    The repositioning freed up 650 new seats;
• The installation of 700 Samsung screens in concourse and hospitality areas feeding messages to fans throughout the stadium;
• Sponsored systems to drive content to screens and mobile devices;
• Overhaul of POS to provide a cashless system throughout;
• New LED floodlights that are programmable to enhance the event spectacle and atmosphere.

Knight is responsible for operational efficiency along with major works and has overseen the South Stand redevelopment. Completed in 2008, the revamp added 6,000 seats, a 150-bed hotel, extensive hospitality and conference facilities and a healthclub. These changes have made the complex a 365-day destination for sport and leisure.

Twickenham’s aim to continually evolve requires it to look at how it can do things better and to overcome the challenges that can occur whilst refurbishing an existing stadium.  “As an industry we are all concerned with the same issues and challenges. Having good open dialogue ensures that lessons can be learnt and that the industry continues to evolve,” said Knight.

Knight and other members of the RFU team will be sharing their experience at Twickenham with delegates on 5 April when they will also touch on future plans for stadium improvements.

“I look forward to showing other stadium operators how we have evolved through overall regeneration of the stadium rather than a knock down and rebuild project,” he said. “That’s our point of difference and something we will continue to do over the coming years.”

TheStadiumBusiness Tech Day – Twickenham on 5 April is open to all industry professionals. Full details and registration here.

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