CHARLOTTE – The Panthers are headed across the pond for the first time in franchise history this week to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
While NFL games in London may not be anything new, this year’s series is adding a little twist, marking the first season that teams will play in the new stadium. The Raiders defeated the Bears in London last week, and now the stage is set for the Panthers and Bucs to face off this Sunday.
The state-of-the-art stadium just opened in April and boasts an impressive set up that gives it the ability to host NFL games and Premier League soccer matches in the same day.
So, whether you’re making the trip to London or cheering on the Panthers from the comfort of your couch, here’s what you need to know about Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Another sellout crowd
When the Panthers kick off on Sunday, it’ll be in the biggest Club soccer stadium London has to offer, holding a capacity of 62,214. For comparison, Bank of America Stadium seats 75,412.
If last week’s Raiders-Bears matchup is any indicator of what’s to come, then the Panthers are in for another packed house.
Football fans turned up early and ready to go last Sunday. Typical pregame activities for the stadium’s soccer matches are pretty laid back, but fans bucked tradition for some NFL football, partaking in three hours of raucous tailgating before kickoff.
That doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon, at least not this season, as all four NFL London games have sold out.
A field custom-made for NFL football
Previously, NFL games in London have been played at Wembley Stadium and Twickenham Stadium, two venues where the natural grass soccer pitch had to be converted to host a football game.
At Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, they have the best of both worlds. Underneath the soccer pitch lies a series of motors and rails, and beneath that, an NFL-quality synthetic turf field. In just 25 minutes, the soccer field can be rolled away to allow the NFL to take center stage.
In addition to the dual fields, the stadium is equipped with designated home and away NFL locker rooms, press conference rooms and a broadcast studio.
The stadium’s level of commitment to hosting NFL games drew praise from both fans and media outlets in London, with many arguing that it helped provide the first “real” NFL experience in the city.
“We have created a new landmark in London, one that is truly global, and one that will stage the world’s two most popular sports, Premier League football and NFL, along with many other sports and world-class entertainment,” said Daniel Levy, the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur. “This partnership with the NFL has enabled us to push the boundaries of stadium design. It is something that has never been done before anywhere in the world.
What’s on the menu?
For the fans heading to London, there’s no need to fret over strange dishes on game day.
The stadium’s 65 food and drink outlets switch things up when the NFL comes to town, offering a menu with an American twist, like gourmet burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and pizza. And don’t forget to grab a drink at one of the three feature bars to help wash things downs.
But if those aren’t enough, why not head to the longest bar in Europe? The Goal Line Bar in the south end zone stretches 65 meters, running parallel with the entire goal line.
Oh, and just to make sure you’re drinking the good stuff, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the first soccer stadium in the world to house its own microbrewery, the source of all craft beer served throughout the stadium.
Bring home a souvenir
You can't go all the way to London without bringing home a few souvenirs from the trip. With that being said, the perfect place to pick up any Panthers-themed game day apparel is right inside the venue at the NFL Store at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. If you want to avoid the long lines on Sunday, then swing by any time during your trip – the store is open all week ahead of game day.
On Saturday, the NFL Store is the place to be, with a full day of football festivities in store. The Buccaneers cheerleaders will be making appearances from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., with the Panthers Top Cats following them from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. If those times don't work, it's still worth the trip to get a photo opportunity with the Vince Lombardi Trophy any time from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Unlike back home, there are no sprawling parking lots for pre-game tailgates. Instead, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a public transport venue and is well served by multiple bus routes and four train stations, all within walking distance.
If you're still trying to figure out how to make your way to the stadium, don't miss out on the free shuttle bus service via Alexandra Palace Rail Station and Wood Green Tube Station in North London. The service is free, but space is limited so tickets must be pre-booked and are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once you get to the stadium, things should start to feel like home, because the NFL's clear bag will be in place at all NFL London Games, too.
For answers to all your questions before Sunday, be sure to check out Tottenham Hotspur Stadium's game day guide.