London Stadium has undergone several transformations since it was first opened but now it has seen its most radical change as it turns into a state-of-the-art ballpark to host its first ever baseball game.
Originally built and used for the London 2012 Olympic Games the former Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, London, was first modified to become the home of English Premier League soccer side West Ham United. Now, the London Stadium will play host to Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on June 29-30 as it becomes the first stadium in Europe to host a regular season MLB game.
Despite the London Stadium being a multi-purpose venue, it is primarily used for soccer, so the job to transform it into a ballpark fit for the biggest teams in the sport’s history is a substantial project. However, the logistics of the task is made easier due to the fact an athletics running track surrounds the pitch – meaning more room is available than typical soccer stadia.
Companies tasked with the job have been given just three weeks to make the radical augmentation, with the most significant aspect being the installation of a totally different playing surface.
For the two-game series the Red Sox and Yankees will be playing on synthetic turf, where 141,900ft2 of artificial turf from France has been installed on top of West Ham’s grass pitch. This will be the first time in either club’s history that they have played on synthetic turf.
For the pitcher’s mound and home plate area, specific clay has been imported from the US, along with 345 tonnes of dirt for the infield. The fence padding for the field’s perimeter has been brought in from Toronto and shipped out of Montreal, Canada.
Elsewhere, 18m tall foul poles and over 400m of fencing have all been installed, while the build of a batter’s eye, backstop, batting cages, dugouts, and temporary clubhouses are also being constructed.
The stadium makeover is having to adhere to strict minimum standards required to host a MLB game and when the event is over, it is expected to take around five days for the London Stadium to return to its previous state. The stadium has a capacity of 66,000, however due to the modifications, it will operate at a capacity of 55,000 for the series, which is bigger than both the Red Sox’s Fenway Park (37,731) and the Yankee’s Yankee Stadium (54,251).