Olympic Steps to Wembley Stadium unveiled

Olympic Steps in Wembley Park

Olympic Steps to Wembley Stadium replaces former ramp - Credit: Ellie Cook

New Olympic Steps leading to Wembley Stadium have been unveiled ahead of sporting events restarting this weekend. 

The four flights of twelve steps have replaced the iconic pedway ramp to create "something that has a real civic purpose".

Pictured James Saunders, CEO of Quintain with workers on the Olympic Steps.Wembley Park, one of Eu

James Saunders, CEO of Quintain with workers on the Olympic Steps. Wembley Park. - Credit: Chris Winter / Quintain

The Olympic Steps, named after the London 1948 Summer Olympics, will be open for public use for the FA Semi Final this Saturday, with the entire area to be completed on June 10, ahead of the UEFA European Championships.  

Wembley Stadium pedway 2018

Wembley Stadium pedway in 2018 - Credit: Nathalie Raffray

"This journey began with the Brent Area Action Plan, and the Quintain first master plan, which started in 2004; we set out a shared ambition to remove the old pedway,  which was a relic from the old Wembley Stadium, and replace it with a new set of steps," James Saunders, chief executive of Quintain, said.   

"It’s taken us fourteen years to deliver it, and, despite the pandemic, despite all the issues to do with working through last year, we’ve now achieved it.

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"I’m very excited, very satisfied. It’s been a difficult project, but we’ve been very well supported by Brent all the way through.

"In fact, Brent have contributed a third of the funding to the Steps project, and have worked with us on all of the design aspects." 

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The decision to hand over £17.8m of public money to Quintain to spruce up Wembley Park was “reviewed” by Brent Council in May 2018.

The decision was agreed in under five minutes following huge opposition by local groups.

Paul Lorber, former Liberal Democrat council leader, said that although he had not yet seen the steps, he was concerned they would be as "steep and uncomfortable" as the stairs leading to the Tube station.

"If they [Quintain] think the steps are better than the pedway that's for them to decide. But they should have paid for it themselves, and not have expected £17m of our money to contribute to it, when our money could have been spent on something better and of greater benefit to local people.” 

The pedway was built in 1974 to facilitate pedestrian access to the old stadium over a coach park that no longer exists.

Quintain first applied to replace it in  2007, in what it said would be “one of the largest pieces of privately-funded public space in the UK.” 

Saunders praised the steps as being more accessible than the previous pedway. 

“The old stadium ramp actually wasn’t disabled-access compliant – it was too steep, frankly, and it was really hard to push wheelchairs and for other ambulant disabled people to walk up it. 

“What we have done is working with the stadium, and Level Playing Field - which is the disabled sports authority - we came up with a combination of steps, but also, importantly, four high-capacity lifts that are actually close to the stadium. 
"Disabled access is much improved from where it was before."

Although the sporting events are the stadium’s responsibility - not Quintain’s – Saunders remarked that he believed “every precaution has been taken".

Rigorous testing , in conjunction with the FA, is taking place before the Olympic Steps are in regular use.

"These are test events for further stadium reopening. It’s a good thing that we are heading in this direction, but we have to do it in a measured way.

“For the steps themselves, they’re forty metres wide, and there are forty-eight of them; there’s huge amounts of space for social distancing.” 

Despite community opposition, Saunders said that the steps are in the interest of the life of the local community.  

Some 12,150 sqm of space has been liberated in front of the stadium.

"We have created a new heart to the site, it’s a new civic square, very close to the Civic Centre.

"This will be a place where people come and spend time, sit on the steps.

“Underneath the steps we have a fantastic covered area which will have covered markets, and various different music events taking place there.  

“It’s also allowing us to put in different types of shops at ground-floor level, on either side of the steps, and on Olympic Way.

"It’s part of the transformation of the whole area.

"The equivalent of one and a half times the stadium pitch has now been liberated, and effectively given back to Brent, the local community,” he said.

“Before, that pedway ramp was only used on match days. 
"It was pedestrian access only; it had no other purpose.

"Now, we’ve created something which has a real civic purpose.” 

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