Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca has unveiled a new lighting system and dugouts as part of improvements being made to the historic venue ahead of the staging of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

The Estadio Azteca will play host to its third World Cup in 2026, as part of the tournament being co-hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. Stadium owner, media giant Televisa, is making a variety of improvements across the entire facility, and the latest efforts have now been introduced.

Signify has installed an LED lighting system that aims to enhance the experience for viewers watching games at home, while also improving the energy efficiency of the stadium.

Meanwhile, Populous has borne responsibility for a project that has involved the relocation of the dugouts and player benches, as well as constructing a new state-of-the-art canopy. The new Populous-designed dugout and canopy has been relocated from the west side of the pitch to the east to accommodate new TV camera positions within the bowl. As part of the design, the new players’ bench sits partly beneath pitch level, enhancing the views for those fans seated directly behind the dugout.

Populous said the new canopy was inspired by the original tessellation on the Telstar and Azteca balls designed and used during the previous 1970 and 1986 World Cups in Mexico. Populous incorporated the hexagonal and pentagonal patterns into the design of the new dugout canopy, stating that fans across the globe will immediately recognise they belong to Mexico and the Azteca.

The manufacturer that provided the PTFE fabric used on the exterior of Allianz Field in Minnesota also produced and installed the ETFE polymer material used to create the new canopy. The air-filled pillows seek to simultaneously protect players and officials from the elements while providing spectators and television cameras a clear view of the action through the transparent material.

“The new dugout and canopy feature luxury padded car-style sports chairs, data and power points throughout, and programmable LED lighting within the canopy structure that illuminates to celebrate any goal or occasion,” said Tim Reeves, senior associate at Populous. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience for fans and players alike.”

In June, the Azteca engaged Spanish company MolcaWorld to give the stadium a makeover ahead of its role as a host venue for the 2026 World Cup. MolcaWorld will work on the facades, stands, changing rooms, press rooms and VIP boxes, as part of a multi-phase project.

First opened in 1966, the 87,500-capacity Azteca currently hosts the Mexican national team, along with Liga MX clubs Club América and Cruz Azul. The stadium also hosts an annual NFL American football regular season game, although this year’s encounter has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Main Image: Estadio Azteca

Dugout Image: Televisa