Mexico venue groomed for sporting spectacle


Mexico Azteca Stadium Aug 2020 improvements Image: Televisa & Estadio Azteca

Ahead of playing host to the 2026 FIFA World Cup™, Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca has unveiled a new lighting system and dugouts as part of improvisations being made to the legendary venue.

The Estadio Azteca is a multiuse stadium located in Mexico City. It is the official home of football club Club América, Cruz Azul, and the Mexico national football team. The stadium sits at an altitude of 2,200 m above sea level. With an official capacity of 87,523, it is the largest stadium in Mexico.

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 carrying out huge refurbishment work across the entire facility, and the latest efforts have now been introduced.

Signify (the new company name of Philips Lighting) has set up an LED lighting system that aims to give an exalted experience to viewers watching games at home, while also bolstering the energy efficacy of the facility.

Meanwhile, renowned design practice Populous has shouldered responsibility for a development that has involved the relocation of the dugouts and player benches, as well as constructing a new avant-garde canopy. The new Populous-designed dugout and canopy has been relocated from the West side of the pitch to the East to make room for 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 informed that for the new canopy they had taken a page out from 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 recognize they belong to Mexico and the Azteca.

The manufacturer that provided the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fabric used on the exterior of Allianz Field in Minnesota (US) also produced and installed the ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (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 programable LED lighting within the canopy structure that illuminates to celebrate any goal or occasion. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience for fans and players alike,” informed Tim Reeves, Senior Associate at Populous.

“The first and only time I’ve cried at the end of a soccer match was aged nine during the 1986 World Cup Finals at the Azteca Stadium. Diego Maradona scored for Argentina against England that day, eliminating them from the finals. So, as an Englishman working on this project, it’s been incredible to be involved with a stadium that holds a special place in my heart,” Reeves added.

In June, the Azteca hired Spanish marketing company MolcaWorld to give the stadium a facelift 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 multiphase project.

First opened in 1966, the arena also hosts an annual National Football League (NFL) American football regular season game, although this year’s encounter has been canceled due to the COVID-19 bane.

The Estadio Azteca is considered to be a sacred ground in the soccer world. Originally designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez over half a century ago, the ‘Colossus of Saint Ursula’, as it’s locally known, has seen some of the greatest matches in history, and is the only stadium in the world to have hosted two FIFA World Cup™ finals.

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