The ground on which Twickenham Stadium is built was purchased in 1907 for the sum of £5,500, which is equivalent to around £607,000 today, and is 10.25 acres in size. It was purchased by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) who are the governing body of rugby union in England. The purchased the land after their games at Crystal Palace started to sell out and they could see major benefits in owning their own land and stadium in which to host their games.
If you ever hear anyone referring to Twickenham Stadium as the “Cabbage Patch” it’s because the land it’s built was used to grow cabbages on a large scale. There is also a pub named The Cabbage Patch not far from Twickenham train station and is a popular meeting point of rugby and NFL fans before and after games played at the stadium.
The original capacity of the Twickenham Stadium was 20,000 but during the 1920’s and 1930’s the north, east and south terraces were all expanded and a new west stand was built that would mirror the east stand. Due to the expansion of the stadium, it was decided that the infrastructure around it also needed to be upgraded. It was in 1937 when the main road outside the stadium was widened and upgraded as it was deemed inadequate for the amount of traffic the expanded stadium was bringing to the area.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s that more work on the stadium would start in an effort to get it to the stage we see it at today. In 1981 the south terrace was rebuilt after safety fears and structural issues. It was much improved as well as being upgraded to the South ‘Stand’ instead of just ‘Terrace’. It was after the completion of the work to this new and improved south stand that the north stand (at opposite end of the stadium) was taken down and rebuilt. This was the start of the stand design that creates the ‘bowl’ style stadium of today.
The two larger stands that run the length of the pitch (East and West) were to start getting some attention in the early 1990’s. By 1995 the stadium had a huge capacity of 75,000 as, at this point in its development, the North, East and West stands were all linked and covered as they are today. It was just the South Stand that needed to be upgraded again to complete the ‘bowl’.
The upgrading of the South Stand started to happen in 2005 and would cost £80 million (over £109 million today). This upgrading would cost such a huge amount as the old stand would be demolished and a brand new one built in its place that would complete the ‘bowl’ effect of the modern stadium. It wouldn’t just be a new stand that would increase the stadium’s capacity from 75,000 to 82,000 that was being created either. The cost would include such things as a hotel with 156 rooms and 6 VIP suites, a conference centre, leisure club, performing arts complex and more.
This final stage of the stadium’s development was completed in November 2006.
Twickenham Stadium has been developed stage by stage over its many years of existence and therefore has lacked the drama of building companies being millions of pounds out of pocket and court case followed by counter court case of which the construction of the new Wembley Stadium saw. Read about it here.
NFL at Twickenham
The first NFL game to be played at Twickenham Stadium was in 2016 when the LA Rams played host to the New York Giants. It’s worth noting that the Giants were also involved in the first regular-season game to be played outside the U.S. when they played against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium, London in 2007. They won both of these games, 13-10 against the Dolphins at Wembley and 17-10 against the LA Rams at Twickenham.
Only one game was played at Twickenham in 2016 but this has been expanded to two games in 2017 as the Cleveland Browns host the Minnesota Vikings and the LA Rams return as hosts, this time to the Arizona Cardinals. See which games are where and when.
The original NFL/Twickenham contract was for 3 games which will have been honoured after the two games this year, so we’ll have to see what happens going forward as Tottenham Hotspurs’ new stadium comes into play as an NFL host. The NFL/Tottenham contract starts in 2018 and runs through the 2027 season.
Whether Twickenham will continue to play a part as an NFL host in the future is not clear, but this should become clear following the 2017 NFL season. Once the two games have been played there the 3-game contract is finished and a decision will have to be made. With the inclusion of the 2 games a season at Tottenham Hotspurs’ stadium, we are either going to see more games played in the UK or a stadium is going to get left out. I personally can’t see it being Wembley that would be cut out of the picture.