Portview delivers for Arsenal, sets out fit-out future

Images: Portview

English Premier League football club Arsenal introduced a new space called the Avenell Club in time for its first home match of the 2019-20 season at Emirates Stadium.

Developed by interior fit-out specialists Portview, the Avenell Club followed on from the success of Dial Square in Emirates Stadium, and has again proved to be a winning concept for the North London club.

TheStadiumBusiness.com spoke to John McMahon, Contracts Director at Portview, to discuss how the Avenell Club project has informed the company’s ongoing work and contracts, along with the direction of the fit-out industry and key future trends.

TheStadiumBusiness.com: How would you assess the success of the Avenell Club since it opened, and how has this project inspired Portview’s other work?

John McMahon: “Following on from the success of Dial Square in Emirates Stadium, Portview once again collaborated with design consultancy, 20.20, to transform 14 executive boxes into the Avenell Club – a luxury lounge taking its name from the road leading to Arsenal F.C’s former home, Highbury Stadium.

“Measuring 700sqm with a capacity of 217 covers, the private members’ club provides an informal yet immersive match day experience, where fans can enjoy the panoramic views of the pitch and the locally sourced seasonal produce and fine wines on offer.

“For spaces like this, a major concern of the client is disruption to the operations and events at the stadium. To overcome this, Portview engages early. We do a large amount of work before going on site so that there is as little disruption to the event space as possible.  We have taken the same approach of early engagement with the clients we are currently working for, including another London-based Premier League football club.

“We were brought on board early with this project and have been able to use our wealth of experience and knowledge to identify any coordination issues and have been able to utilise our in-house design team to avoid any future issues and to make sure the project runs smoothly.

“As we did with the Avenell Club, we have been working off site for several months so that we can fit-out the space quickly and efficiently for our current client, while ensuring there is minimal disruption to the operations of the event space.

“Early engagement also allows us to build a great partnership with the client and their professional team to successfully deliver world class projects.”

TSB: What made this such a special project for the company in terms of the requirements you had to deliver on, and the challenges involved in doing so?

JM: “Arsenal FC are valued clients of ours and we have a close relationship, therefore all of the projects we collaborate on are special and naturally carry pressure to complete an impressive result.

“Our friends at 20.20 were tasked with creating a next generation brand with a robust fan experience from podium to seat. This involved developing a new tier offering for hospitality at Club Level which we were proud to be involved with. We transformed 14 executive boxes into one luxe lounge space with panoramic views of the pitch.

“Using 50 tonnes of structural steel support beams and 257 individually sized floor joists, we delivered an impressive structural mezzanine floor above the Emirates Lounge, which was first of a kind in the stadium. All the steel work came through an 1800 x 900 mm window and was installed in just eight days.

“A countdown to kick-off is illustrated by an LED light display, with the lights illuminating one by one as kick-off approaches. Photographs line the internal walls showcasing iconic imagery of Emirates Stadium.

“To minimise disruption to the stadium events, we only had a short window to work onsite for this project. We had a very precious 11-week window available to us when the event space wasn’t being used. In order to make this a success, we had eight months of preparation off site so that the process was smooth and efficient when on site.

“As with the projects we are currently working on, early engagement with the client and their professional team was the key to success on this project, meaning we avoided any issues with quality, tight timeframes, and external influences.”

TSB: What are some of the key projects Portview is currently working on?

JM: “We are working on various office blocks in central London, high end retail stores in Knightsbridge, a spa and wellness centre in central London, a leading university campus, a boutique hotel and a flagship of a technology store in Knightsbridge.

“Within the stadia and arena sector, we have ongoing work completing various corporate boxes and general admission hospitality areas in Arsenal. We are also really excited to be working for another London-based, Premier League football club on their stand and hospitality boxes, which is due for completion in 2025.

“One of our project teams is completing a refurbishment of 262 bedrooms at the five-star Rosewood Hotel, which has involved our in-house design team. Our client’s customers are a top priority and we have therefore been completely flexible with our time on site, even when this involves vacating site for weeks to ensure celebrity customers are not disturbed.

“Despite this flexibility, we have maintained a strict programme of works, with no additional costs for the client, which has included a high-end fit-out of luxury bathrooms, high quality soft furnishings and various joinery.

“We are also working on the new London College of Fashion (LCF) campus for the University of Arts London in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. The project is a 400,000 sq. ft fit-out made up of an impressive auditorium, multi-purpose lecture theatres with tiered seating and interactive studio spaces.

“The ambitious project is uniting all six of LCF sites for the first time in its 120-year history, creating an extraordinary new campus for over 6,500 students and staff, with state-of-the-art facilities including public open spaces, galleries, library, and archives.”

TSB: How would you say the sector has evolved over the past decade or so? What have been the big changes?

JM: “Portview has been delivering beautiful fit-out projects since 1975 and we have gathered a wealth of experience during this time. Over the past decade, we have really seen the value in early engagement.

“The saying goes, ‘it’s never too early, it’s always too late’ and we believe this to be especially true in the stadia and arena sector. We pride ourselves in our relationships with our clients and their professional teams and count early engagement as the key to success on many of our projects.

“Gone are the days of a stadium serving one sports team; in the past decade, we have seen the need for stadiums to be functional yet versatile so that they can facilitate events year-round. This brings the construction and fit-out sector new challenges as it further restricts the timeframe that work can be done, which in turn strengthens the need for early engagement.

“We know that the most important thing for our clients is their customers and the experience that they have throughout their spaces. The fan experience that our clients offer is exceptional, and we are seeing more of a focus on the before and after of a game than ever before. Unique food and beverage offerings, and digital touchpoints, are both playing a huge part in the overall fan experience.”

TSB: Looking to the future, what would you pick out as the key future trends/opportunities for the fit-out sector?

JM: “Stadiums are no longer simply a stage for the sport to take place on; our clients need flexibility and a multi-use venue to create a revenue generating, fan centric space. Similarly, our clients’ customers expect variety in service, whether that be a microbrewery inside the stadium or a Michelin star restaurant overlooking the pitch.

“In the past 10 years, environmentally sustainable operations and practices have gone from a minor concern to a major consideration in sports venue management. We have seen every player in the stadia and arena sector step up to the mark, taking responsibility for their field, from the architects and interior designers to the procurement and delivery teams. We expect this trend to continue.

“Looking to the future, we see an even greater demand for flexible, sustainable venues with hospitality offerings that are beyond the customers wildest dreams. This can only be achieved by the industry engaging with each other early and working as partners in close collaboration.”