Now, before we’re accused of being self-indulgent, we’d like to point out that this is a serious review of a project, which, although veering away from our usual subject of the workplace, promises a number of the design and cultural elements so prevalent in that world. It also means that we get a trip to Wembley Stadium!
In fact, when our friends from KSS – who recently scooped the Mixology North Hospitality Project award for the impressive Main Stand Concourses at Liverpool’s Anfield – invited us to Wembley Stadium, we were never going to turn down the opportunity to take a look at this latest scheme at our national stadium.
The new One Twenty exclusive members’ club, part of Club Wembley at Wembley Stadium, opened its doors for the first time at the start of this current season, providing hospitality for just 120 select members and their guests. This bespoke club, designed by KSS, delivers a new benchmark in football hospitality.
The One Twenty experience kicks-off in the arrival space, where guests pass through a sculptural oversized angular canopy. It is here that we meet up with KSS Associate Directors Debbie Brant and Debbie Drake. Before we even enter One Twenty, we can’t help but admire how clean and pristine the concourse and entrance are – particularly considering that, just the previous evening, Spurs were playing host to Manchester United here.
‘Wembley is now 10 years old in terms of the new stadium,’ Debbie Drake tells us. ‘This was basically the first major refurbishment since then. The hospitality space here used to be known as the Bobby Moore Lounge and this was the Upper Bobby Moore Lounge. The lounge was as one, so we’ve now added the screens to divide the spaces and to make this area feel more exclusive and more premium. ‘We’ve ‘gently’ refurbed downstairs – which is still called the Bobby Moore Lounge. We’ve changed the carpets and added new bars (complete with Laurent Perrier branding) and we’re currently looking at new furniture for the space.
There were previously four entrances for The Bobby Moore and now the two outside entrances are specifically for One Twenty, and we’ve also re-addressed the branding downstairs accordingly.
‘The central area, looking up from downstairs is where the new One Twenty bar is situated. You’ll see that the screening is more intense along the stairs and the entrance and then opens up more so that One Twenty guests and members can look down to where they still have live entertainment downstairs in The Bobby Moore.’
We ascend an illuminated staircase, past the fantastic double-storey, smoked oak panelled wall, and into this exclusive facility. Guests are instantly met by a stimulating array of colours and features in the ever-so-cool lounge. Furthermore, upon reaching the top of the stairs, the view in front of you stretches right out to the pitch and the heart of the stadium itself. Even empty, this sight makes our hearts beat just a little faster!
The lounge has been designed to be ‘evolutionary’, with small furniture clusters and swivel chairs enabling guests to define their own groups, privacy and sculpt their own experience. Dense tones of mustard, purple and turquoise are used throughout these spaces.
‘I don’t’ think there’s a hospitality space that offers so much space per head as this does – over half the guests can sit in the lounge, plus you have the entire bar area as well,’ Debbie Brant shows us. ‘There is a real sense of choice here – and that was important because it does add that extra sense of luxury and generosity.
A panelled feature wall acts as a stunning central backdrop to the lounge area and includes beautiful upholstery and recessed bookshelves, where guests can browse through the famous Wembley archives.
As we walk across to the amazing bar – which, at 21m long, runs along the entire width of One Twenty, we ask how challenging it was to ‘up the ante’ from what was already a great offering here at Wembley. ‘It was a challenge but we took a great deal from our own experiences in the sports arena sector – from projects such as Anfield,’ Debbie Drake continues. ‘It wasn’t just about making sure the space looked right, it was about the entire experience. The service here is incredible, for example. You’re greeted downstairs, you’re looked after by maître d’s, you can choose where you want to be – it’s a unique experience for this sector.
‘Everything was considered here – and everything is a step up. This runs all the way through to the branding of menus and staff uniforms. We worked with the team here on all the accessories.’
The bar really is a standout feature for its scale and presence alone, and features a spectacular brass chandelier that floats up to the exposed ceiling.
Members can enjoy spectacular four-course meals from leading chef Mark Reynolds, served in the restaurant, overlooking the pitch, while Laurent Perrier serves its full range of champagnes right here in the bar, alongside luxurious cocktails – while members can also enjoy a ‘lighter’ selection of delicious snacks. This isn’t football hospitality as we know it – and we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a few – this really is on another level. Think private members bar meets top end restaurant.
Of course, Wembley is very much an all-year-round venue, which, we guess, must have posed it’s own challenges? ‘We had two phases on site. Wembley is different from other stadiums,’ Debbie Brant agrees. ‘It doesn’t sleep in the same way. Other Premier League clubs allow you to go in and do site works at the end of the season. For Wembley, that’s when the concerts start. It was pretty challenging – we had two eight-week windows to work in. So, for example, we had to make sure that we could bring in a cherry picker to do all the incredible panelling here and still have everything out of the way downstairs for an Adele concert! Everything had to be acceptable for guests coming into other parts of the stadium.’
We’re told that a lot of the impressive features that now add so much to One Twenty were manufactured off-site and then brought here and assembled on-site. A perfect example of this are the feature ceiling rafts, which help diffuse the feeling of the naturally low ceilings here.
Moving through to the One Twenty restaurant itself, we’re immediately struck by the scale. There is plenty more of that sense of luxury and generosity here. ‘The brief was that this is Wembley. You know where you are!’ Debbie Brant continues. ‘It’s about getting the very best members club and dining experience – and it just so happens that the match is right outside your door!’
‘You can sit around 450 people here – but they don’t tend to do that. There is nothing themed about the space – although we do have a couple of very subtle nods to football, such as the use of hexagons, which mirror the panels on a football.
‘The lighting scheme is really important throughout, and we can change the settings according to the time of day or the mood required. Again, we’ve created a variety of dining settings, including fine dining banquet booths and long pitch-side tables. It was all about adding even more variety and choice – all about that extra layer. We knew we had to match fine dining establishments, while also cleverly dividing the space and making full use of it. We had to make sure that we could make this flexible. We were inspired by the outside fine dining world – but it’s not really comparable because of all the other challenges that this facility faces.’
One thing we haven’t mentioned is that, for the football fans among you, One Twenty sits right on the halfway line. Nice.
One Twenty is described as ‘the finest offering from Club Wembley, delivering a unique concept unseen in sporting stadia and providing the next era of luxury and subtle extravagance’. We wouldn’t disagree.