This month the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan hosted the eighth edition of the World Games, a summer sports festival for events not on the Olympic program. The center piece of the games were not the sports themselves, but the 55,000-seat main stadium named for the event.
The World Games Stadium was designed by renowned Japanese architect Toyo Ito. The stadium, which has a legacy capacity of 40,000 and opened in May, is notable for the fact that it’s snaking roof — meant to invoke images of a dragon — is completely covered in solar panels that generate enough energy to not only power the stadium, but allow the stadium to sell excess power back to Kaohsiung.
While I am delighted by the idea behind the stadium I can’t help but scratch my head and ask, “Why didn’t anyone else think of this?” Of course, Basel’s St-Jakob Park does have some solar panels, but not nearly enough to power the entire stadium, let alone create an excess that can be sold off or given to the municipality.
In the West we have been searching for ways to make our cities more efficient and find better use of our land — why has it taken so long for environmentally-friendly stadia to be constructed over here? Stadia in the United States surely take up more resources than anywhere else, as many of our cities have domed stadiums with vast roofs that serve only to keep out weather but take up tremendous amounts of space.
It must be said, however, that the World Games Stadium isn’t the first completely “green” stadium in the world: it’s just the most noticeable. In November of 2006 Dartford FC, a modest club from Kent playing in the Ryman League, opened their 4,100-capacity Princes Park, built by the Dartford Council. Princes Park was named “Best New Non-League Ground” by Groundtastic magazine in 2006.
Noteworthy features of the ground are a water reclamation system, which allows the club to use rain water to water the pitch, solar panels which provide heat, and a living roof. Manchester City have also made an effort towards installing wind turbine power at the City of Manchester stadium.
But there is still a long way to go: all you have to do is look at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, a long shot hopeful to host World Cup matches should the United States bid be successful for its 2018 or 2022 bids, to see an example of grossly misused space.
It remains to be seen what the World Games Stadium will be used for in the future. Taiwan is very much a baseball country and the stadium is meant to host football and athletics. The national football league, the modest Intercity Football League, rarely plays before large crowds, and is certainly unlikely to fill a 40,000-seat venue. Kaohsiung itself is home to three teams in the top division, one is owned by Taipower, Taiwan’s national utility. Hopefully the stadium will serve as an example to those looking to build new venues, particularly municipally owned venues, in the future.