Welcome to our new Tuesday feature, stadium spotlight. This week, we look at the replacement for Lansdowne Road in Ireland.
Stadium Name: Aviva Stadium, more commonly known as New Lansdowne Road. In February 2009, naming rights were won by Hibernian Aviva, Ireland’s largest insurance company, for a ten-year period.
Capacity: 50,000 (projected)
Opening: May 2010 (projected)
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Ownership: Jointly owned by the Football Association of Ireland and the Irish Rugby Football Union
Cost: $350 million (projected)
Architects: Populous (US), partners in the Wembley Stadium project along with dozens of international stadiums, in collaboration with local Irish firm Scott Tallon Walker.
In 2007, Dublin’s famous Lansdowne Road stadium (then the world’s oldest international rugby stadium) was demolished to make way for the construction of a new stadium that would take Ireland’s national soccer and rugby teams into a home fit for the 21st century: Aviva Stadium.
The development project has been fraught by political controversy over the past decade. The original plan of the Irish government, led by Bertie Ahern, was to build “Stadium Ireland” as part of a massive sports campus on the outskirts of the city, with a substantial 80,000 capacity for Ireland and Scotland’s joint failed Euro 2008 bid. Millions were spent without a brick being laid in what became known as “Bertie Bowl.”, with the plans collapsing in 2002.
In 2003, plans for a new international soccer and rugby stadium were considered to move on from “Bertie Bowl”. Initial plans had called for a 65,000 capacity stadium, but the residential location saw the plans downsized to 50,000 when a new development at the Lansdowne Road location was decided upon.
The situation is further complicated by the nearby presence of Croke Park, the fourth largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 82,300 — but one usually closed to association football, used primarily for the Gaelic games. The Gaelic Athletic Association’s mission is to support indigenous Irish games, but, amidst quite a controversy, the GAA finally allowed rugby and soccer to be played on Croker during the last two years due to the closure of Lansdowne Road. Croke Park’s own redevelopment has cost over $300m, almost half from the public purse, meaning the Irish government has spent hundreds of millions on three different stadia projects in the past decade. Some argue the GAA should have relented and allowed Croke Park to host rugby and soccer permanently to avoid the considerable expense of building a new Lansdowne Road, but traditionalists (and nationalists) objected.
Instead, then, Aviva Stadium will be the home to both the Irish national football and rugby teams from next May. The stadium will host the 2011 Europa League final and the Republic of Ireland will play their first game at the stadium against Argentina next August.
Aviva Stadium is set in the midst of Dublin’s streets and with a railway line running underneath the West Stand. To this eye, the dramatic curves seem to conflict with the urban setting rather than meld into it. The curves, though, do have a practical purpose: The North side — nearest in the rendering above — swoops lower with just one tier of seating because of its proximity to residential housing. The South, East and West stands each have four tiers of seating.
Concerns over the impact of the stadium on the residential area have remained despite this compromise, with the official planning permission report stating that “It is acknowledged that the proposed stadium will have adverse effects on adjacent residential areas but these are mitigated by the organic nature of the building profile which will reduce its visual massing and extensive overshadowing. The amenity of residents will be further safeguarded by recommended conditions in relation to noise, traffic, crowd management and design. It is considered the quality contemporary design contrasts, rather than conflicts, with the traditional architecture of the locality”.