The World Games Stadium and Eco-friendly Stadia

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.

Kaohsiung World Games Stadium

Kaohsiung World Games Stadium

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.

St. Jakob Park, Basel. Courtest ahdigital on Flickr.

St. Jakob Park, Basel. Courtest ahdigital on Flickr.

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.

Rendering of Princes Park, Dartmouth

Rendering of Princes Park, Dartford

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.

Edward Jones Stadium, St. Louis

Edward Jones Stadium, St. Louis

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.

11 thoughts on “The World Games Stadium and Eco-friendly Stadia

  1. Nick

    Hi there,

    Interesting article. Thought I’d point out that Princes Park is in Dartford, not Dartmouth as it currently states under the image.

  2. Michal

    Just as a supplement – I’m pretty sure the Sydney Olympic Stadium (currently ANZ Stadium?) also uses rain to supply itself in water. Also I think that Letzigrundi n Zurich and the new rebuilt Weserstadion will have more solar panels than Basel. But not sure on that one. Still, there are a few other examples of solar power being used on roofs in Europe, of course never in the scale of Kaohsiung

  3. Bahns

    Whoa! They should re-name Kaohsiung World Games Stadium to Stadio Wild Snake, because that’s certainly what it looks like to me! For real though, that is quite a piece of architectural masterclass.

  4. Luka

    Doesn’t the cost of solar panels per square metre in comparison with the cost per square metre of regular material used for stadia make this idea quite unfeasible? I mean, why not build everything exposed to the sun out of solar panels?!

  5. Bobby

    For smaller buildings, it’s not cost effective at the moment. For personal homes it can be, when combined with other “green” devices (water reclamation, ect). But for stadiums I think it’s something we have to do, particularly municipal stadiums given that the tax payers will be footing a power bill into the future for something that’s used thrice a week tops.

  6. Bobby

    Also to amend the story some, the World Games Stadium will host the semi-final competition of the 2010 East Asian Football Championship this month, the competing teams are North Korea, Guam, Hong Kong and the hosts.

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  9. James17930

    Great that you gave a notice to Kaohsiung’s stadium — it’s pretty great.

    But yes, what to do with it?

    Personally, I’d love to see Taiwan put some teams into the J-League, one in Taipei and on in Kaohsiung. But somehow I don’t think FIFA — or China — would be too sold on the idea.

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