world-class stadiums don't just spring up overnight. Building one is a tough assignment; building two at once is like Mission Impossible. But that's the job the Manchester Stadium team faced. Their all-in-one construction had to include a 38,000-seater stadium to house the 2002 Commonwealth Games – then transform into a 48,000-seater new home for Manchester City FC. Such a massive task takes a lot of brilliant ideas and hard work from loads of people with varying skills. Jenny Hampton asked a few of them who did what, and how it was done …

Rock 'ard specialist

Peter Jones, contracts manager, concrete firm Heyrod Construction We provided all the concrete except the ground slab on the north stand and the basement slab on the east stand. We were employed by Laing O’Rourke and we in turn hired specialist firm Bucan to fit all the pre-cast units. There were 25-30,000 m2 of concrete used and 2000 tonnes of steel reinforcement. Some of the concrete was pre-cast – it arrived ready on site to install – but a lot of it had to be poured on site. Any concrete we spilled, we saved and recycled for use on the roads outside the stadium. Working in the wettest weather you’d ever seen wasn’t easy! The sheer scale of this project was mind-blowing. The beams were beasts, and manoeuvring them around was a challenge. And pouring concrete 30 m up is scary …

Boss man

Graham Lumberg, project director, contractor Laing O’Rourke I was responsible for the delivery of the construction work in the stadium and the infrastructure around it, including road rebuilding and a bridge. I had to talk to the clients (there were two, for the two uses of the stadium – Manchester council and Manchester City FC), the architect, all the engineers – structural, mechanical and electrical, the cost consultant (to ensure the project team didn’t overspend!), the public, the media, Building Control (it makes sure the project is run safely and conforms to the necessary regulations) and the Health & Safety Executive. In my job, I try to oil the cogs of the machine, to co-ordinate things to make sure they run smoothly. I need to have some technical know-how so I can understand the details when the engineers explain them to me. I also have a financial role because I have to work with the cost consultant to make sure the contractors don’t go over the budgets we set. For Manchester, that meant keeping to the overall cost of £115m. Because the site had been used before, we had to remove a lot of earth to make the ground safe. But we kept most of it, recycling 250,000 tonnes and using it for the car parks. The programme was very tight and co-ordinating the activities so everything ran on time was a real challenge.

Making sparks fly

David Twiss, electrical engineer, Arup I was responsible for the full design of all the electrical services and systems in the stadium, such as the power supplies, the security systems and ticketing. I worked closely with the mechanical, structural and building services engineers, the quantity surveyor and the clients. It’s very important for the electrical engineer to work closely with the client, as maintenance and operation is a big part of our design. We have to ask them how they want the building to operate and when they want the power systems on. We are also very aware of environmental issues, such as long-life light bulbs and lighting that switches off when it’s not being used. The stadium has two modes: event mode and day-to-day mode. When it’s in event mode, the systems have to be on to make sure spectators can come and go safely, so the security systems and fire alarms are on full and the ticket machines are switched on. In day-to-day mode, the stadium is low maintenance, so only the occupied parts are on. The intense time pressure on this project was the most challenging aspect. The date of the Commonwealth Games couldn’t be moved, so we couldn’t be late!

No messin'

Martin Austin, project manager, Arup I managed the administration of the design team for Arup. Because there were so many different design teams involved and Arup’s contract covered the design and all aspects of engineering, I administered those contracts so the architect could concentrate on the design. My role was very varied. It began with the planning and lottery funding applications right at the start, progressed through to liaising with the clients during the design stage, to more liaising with the contractors once they came on board. I was the main funnel for communication between the clients, the design team and contractors. If the client had a query, I could pass it on to the appropriate team and get them an answer.

Walking a tightrope

Mike King, structural engineer, Arup I designed all the roof elements that sat on top of the concrete bowl with the seating in. The exciting thing about this project for me was that the structural aspects were very important so I worked closely with the architect from day one. It had to be structurally sound and elegant, so it was a design and technical job for me. Steelwork contractor Watson Steel was involved early on and its ideas were used too. The stadium is made up of two separate structures. One is a cable-net of masts and a web of fine steel cables, and this stands independently of the rest of the roof, with tension put into it. Everything else hangs from this, so even though it’s a massive roof, it looks very delicate, almost as if it floats. The project was unique and I was learning along the way, working out how it all fitted together, which was exciting. There were some real adrenalin rushes!

Working at fever pitch

John Lamoury, company manager, infield contractor J Mallinson We laid the infield for the Commonwealth Games but our main work began after it had finished and we had to lay down the football pitch for Manchester City. We took out the sand and root zones of the Commonwealth Games field, as the entire pitch was lowered 6.5 m to accommodate the extra seating needed in the football stadium design. Then we went back in to put in drainage, under-soil heating and irrigation. The programme was very tight. We were given 65% of the ground to start working on, but not the bit we wanted, so everything that could have been awkward was! We just had to keep the dialogue going with Laing, the contractor and bide our time. The pitch is built up in layers. The drainage is put in first, then a gravel carpet, under-soil heating, a layer of grit and the upper and lower root zones. It is a Desso pitch, which means it has polypropylene fibres sewn into it. Because modern stadiums tend to have high sides that don’t allow much light or air in, it is a tricky environment for a plant to grow in. The fibres act as anchor points for the grass roots, so while the grass cover may be lost, the root system is still good and the smooth playing surface is maintained. For me, the best moment is yet to come – it will be when I see 22 footballers playing a good game and enjoying the pitch.

Creative guru

Dipesh Patel, architect, consultant Arup Associates I was the lead architect for Manchester Stadium. Many different groups had a input to the design and had to be consulted. I worked with all the engineers, the clients Manchester council and Manchester City FC, Manchester 2000, the organising committee for the Commonwealth Games, the main contractor Laing O’Rourke, steelwork contractor Watson Steel, Heyrod, who provided the concrete frame, Building Control and user groups such as local residents and Manchester City fans. In the initial stages my job is purely a design role. Once construction starts, it becomes more of a management one. I have to oversee the progress of the design and make sure everybody understands what they have to do. Keeping hold of the design themes and keeping to the budget was a challenge because it was such an ambitious design. The two-stadiums-in-one design was a unique problem to solve. We eventually opted for a system whereby the 38,000-seater Commonwealth Games stadium would be transformed after the event into a football stadium, by lowering the entire infield 6.5 m and adding 10,000 seats with an new stand and also below the original seating, coming in over what was the outer racetrack and butting up to the new football pitch [see drawings]. At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, I was so proud to have had the chance to be involved in such a project. I thank my lucky stars that I was part of the biggest and best stadium built in Britain for many years.

Star players

  • The stadium project couldn’t have begun without ground workers. Before the construction team could start work, dozens of ground workers moved in with diggers to remove 250,000 m² of contaminated soil, making the site safe to build on.
  • The complicated electrical systems were put in by teams of electricians, installing thousands of metres of wiring. The lighting, turnstiles and security systems were all hooked up by the sparks, who wired each alarm and light to the main power supply in the stadium.
  • The smooth pitch surface was created by turf layers, who didn’t just roll it out, but had to plant thousands of tiny individual grass plants. Each one had to be put in a precise spot so the pitch ran smoothly together, and then nurtured throughout the winter and spring, so it was green and ready for the first game.