England: America's Pastimes Makes Moves Towards Permanency in London

source: StadiumDB.com; author: StadiumDB.com

England: America's Pastimes Makes Moves Towards Permanency in London The practice of converting sports stadiums temporarily to accommodate other needs is a common practice. Football facilities are often reconfigured for other purposes. This summer MLB returned to London Stadium as the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs faced off in a two-game series.


The process of sports stadiums undergoing temporary changes to fit a different need is nothing new. Football stadiums are commonly transformed into venues for music concerts for example, as they provide ready-made spots which can easily fulfil ticket sale demand. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London was designed specifically with the hosting of NFL matches in mind, as part of their partnership with the major North American organisation. The stadium has an innovative retractable pitch that can make way for the NFL field.

In 2023 it was the turn of West Ham’s London Stadium to take up a big mantle of change once again. The return of pro baseball to London gave punters something fresh to look at in the offers by bookmakers listed by reliable services such as Match.Center UK or Match.Center Ireland. Four years after hosting the MLB for the first time, the venue looked the part so much better this time around.

London Stadium© Queen Elizabeth Park

MLB Back Again

In 2019 for the first time ever, an MLB match was played in London, with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox making the long trip to face each other. Those games were also at the London Stadium, which at the time, wasn’t even a decade old, having been purpose-built for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Part of the problem that the MLB had in wanting to expand and grow their fanbase in Europe, was trying to find suitable venues at which to put on the show. Regular football stadia in the UK for example, are not the right dimensions to be adapted to a baseball field.

But the London Stadium, originally an athletics venue, was up to measure and was selected by the MLB. Four years later in mid-June 2023 the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs descended on England to face each other in a two-match MLB regular season series.

London Stadium© Adam Somlo

The Remodelling Challenges

For the MLB to make a big impression, it didn’t just want to plant a rough facsimile of a baseball field in London. They wanted to go bigger and better, by replicating, as closely as possible, the look and feel of a traditional ballpark from North America.

The transformation of the London Stadium for the MLB matches was enormous. Unlike the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the London Stadium doesn't have a retractable pitch. So a new playing surface had to be laid on top of the existing playing surface, with local aggregate and important artificial turf being used in the build.

Around 345 tonnes of clay were shipped across the Atlantic from Pittsburgh. That was a massive undertaking, but it was a crucial part of the experience, as it was a surface that the MLB players would be familiar with in the in-field. 

London Stadium© Stephan Hoogerwaard

Beyond the Surface

New purpose-built locker rooms were installed as well, for 2023, as an MLB team is a lot bigger and has more supporting staff than a Premier League match-day squad does. Players involved in the 2019 series had pointed out the big, unfamiliar distance from the foul ball line to the supporters. 

In North American ballparks, the fans sit a lot closer to the line, so seating was brought forward, as one of the many noticeable changes for the 2023 London Series. The dugouts were also bigger and better positioned, so they could be seen by fans, and the seating in the stadium itself was adjusted to portray more of a ballpark setting.

When Is It Happening Again?

There was a greater sense of permanency about the whole London Series affair in 2023. The turf that was laid was not shipped back to the US this time. The clubhouses and lockers are staying in place. Things were imported and they stayed.

London Stadium© sbally1

The materials are simply going into storage to be hauled out again the next time the stadium needs to undergo another transformation. This adds a lot of weight to the commitment that the MLB has made to the London Series.

The MLB is expected to be in London in 2024. Then after a visit to Paris the following year, it's due to go back to the UK in 2026. So now the London Stadium, whose measurements pass the unique test of being able to host an MLB match, will see dramatic make-overs like this happen more and more.