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Real Madrid’s stadium is a marvel of modern engineering

How the new Bernabéu is redefining the stadium experience for both player & fans 🏟️

Like an alien spaceship has taken up residence on a city block

You’ve heard of a retractable roof, but have you ever heard of a retractable pitch?

Last summer, Real Madrid completed its renovation of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, bringing to life the club’s highly ambitious plans set into motion in 2011 to turn it into “the best stadium in the world.” The project which some have said is the most ambitious renovation in sports history took over four years of construction and cost over $1 billion – or around ten Jude Bellinghams.

That’s not far off what Tottenham spent on their stadium, which was completely new. 🤯 

From the outside, the new Bernabéu looks like something out of a Neill Blomkamp film. In addition to the futuristic facade, the renovations include a new retractable roof, increased seating capacity, improved VIP suites, a completely redesigned concourse, and four state-of-the-art jumbotrons that would make even Jerry Jones jealous.

While all of this is mighty impressive, it’s what fans don’t see that really sets the Bernabéu apart from any other stadium in the world, and somewhat justifies its insane construction costs: a retractable pitch.

Step aside, Bermuda grass

Simply watering the grass a few times a week isn’t enough for the world’s biggest club. The new Bernabéu features a cutting-edge pitch removal system where the pitch can be divided up into several pieces and stored underground.

The six platforms that form the pitch can be retracted to one side, where they are stacked on top of each-other just meters beneath what is usually the playing surface. It’s truly unlike anything ever built before.

The cutting edge-system allows the club to store the pitch in conditions controlled for temperature and light, with an irrigation system to boot.

“It’s a greenhouse,” says Tristan Lopez-Chicheri, the CEO of the architecture firm who led the stadium’s renovations, L35. “The chamber underneath the stadium has all the conditions for the grass to be cared for, treated, and kept in perfect condition.”

And you thought your dad took his lawn seriously? 🚜

But why?

Footballers are notoriously finicky about the conditions of the pitch. The silky passing of today’s game requires evenly-manicured and perfectly-slicked grass for the ball to zip on the surface like it does. Long gone are the days of playing surfaces resembling no man’s land.

While turf offers a perfectly even playing surface, it leads to more injuries, and – as anyone who’s ever played beyond grade school will tell you – fucking sucks.

Real Madrid played their first game in their newly-renovated home in September

With turf being an obvious no-no for the world’s biggest club, the best way to deliver a consistently top-tier playing surface is to have a retractable pitch, where all conditions are controlled for 24/7. But that’s not the only reason…

Taylor Swift is coming to town

Perhaps more importantly, the retractable pitch allows the Bernabéu to easily play host to non-soccer events. Real Madrid hope their home will become a live entertainment hub of sorts, hosting concerts, conventions, and even NFL games.

It’s a similar case with Tottenham, whose new home has already hosted two NFL games and even features a mini F1 track.

“Now that you can move 10-15,000 tons of equipment pretty quickly and pretty smoothly, the ability to reconfigure that building to virtually accommodate beyond, say, one night Real Madrid or Tottenham onto an NFL game the day after is super exciting,” said Christopher Lee, the project director of Tottenham’s new stadium.

Tottenham have received an instant financial boost from their new home, and Madrid are hoping for the same. The club are banking on this revenue stream so much, in fact, that they even moved their last La Liga game of the season to accompany a Taylor Swift concert that same night – the first at the Bernabéu.

While the retractable pitch won’t be needed quite yet, Real Madrid’s investment in their new home is justified in my eyes because: wherever Taylor Swift goes, money follows. 🤑