Category Archives: Stadia

Stadium Spotlight: The Globe Arena, Morecambe

In what’s now become an infrequent series, our stadium spotlight turns to Morecambe F.C. in Lancashire, England. Morecambe were promoted to the Football League for the first time in 2007, now plying their trade in League Two, and awaiting a bright shiny new future at the Globe Arena, currently under construction. That will end their long era playing at Christie Park, dating back to 1921.

And of course, as we noted here recently, The Shrimps have a rather new striking logo to plaster all over their new digs. The stadium name was announced this month, and is that of the company constructing it, Globe Construction, in a five-year sponsorship deal.

The four-sided stadium will include a main stand on the south side for 2,173 seated spectators; a west-sided “home” stand for 2,234 fans with bar and catering facilities; an “away” stand on the east-side for 1,389 standing fans; and an uncovered terrace on the north end for 606 standing supporters, for a total stadium capacity of around 6,000.

The entire development is coming at a cost of £12m, and includes an artificial turf training field and community facilities for small-sided games, hockey and netball.

Globe Arena plans

Football field, training facilities, five-a-side, netball and hockey facilities.

Construction of the Globe Arena began in last May, and though some of the more ambitious plans for the stadium (including office space) have been postponed due to financial belt-tightening on the project, it’s still due to open this autumn.

Let’s look at the progress of the entire project as of last month, courtesy of campdavemorecambe on Flickr.

Globe Arena, progress of construction, January 2010.

Globe Arena, progress of construction, January 2010.

Stadium Spotlight: Atlanta Beat’s Special New Digs

Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) announced today that May 9th will mark the opening of the new, $17 million 8,300 capacity stadium being built for the expansion team the Atlanta Beat at Kennesaw State University, a remarkable construction achievement given the announcement that it was to be built was only made late last year, and the land cleared in December.

“We are excited to make this announcement,” said Atlanta Beat General Manager Shawn McGee.  “The opening of the world’s first women’s soccer-specific stadium of this magnitude means a great deal to both soccer in the Southeast and to women’s sports on a national scale.”

Atlanta Beat stadium

It’s not the first stadium to be used primarily for women’s soccer (Florida State University’s Seminole Soccer Complex’s sole tenants are its women’s team; anyone know of others?), but this is still quite a special moment for fans of professional women’s soccer. It looks like it will be a fantastic venue for WPS, pretty much the perfect size for the league at this point. Here’s hoping it’s the first of many.

Stadium Spotlight: Estadio Chivas, Mexico

This month, Chivas de Guadalajara’s new stadium, Estadio Chivas, was supposed to open after two years of construction. Construction and financing delays have delayed that. But it looks like the new venue will open later this year.

The one major downside to the stadium from a soccer perspective? Artificial turf.

Let us take a look at the original renderings and the current progress for the 45,000 seater stadium.

Design Concept // By French architects, Jean Marie Massaud & Daniel Pouzet, Pouzet Massaud Studio

estadio-chivas-1

estadio-chivas-2
estadio-chivas-3

Progress // December and January 2009

estadio-chivas-progress-1

estadio-chivas-progress-2
estadio-chivas-progress-3

Stadium Spotlight: Portland Park, Ashington

A few weeks ago, fans of Ashington AFC gathered to bury a time capsule filled with memorabilia from one hundred years of their history at the site of their old ground, Portland Park, where they had begun play in 1909. The stadium was named in honour of the Duke of Portland, who owned the land. The club is nicknamed the Colliers, as Ashington is a mining town in Northumberland, the north-east of England. Ashington AFC are one of the oldest clubs still playing today, founded in 1883.

The club were elected to the Football League in 1921, and money was raised to add concrete terracing, a tea room and a press box to the stadium.  A crowd of 10,000 showed up to their inaugural Football League match.

Ashington finished bottom of the Football League in 1929 in the midst of a miners strike in Ashington, and lost their place in the league, never to return. They continued to play non-league football, with redevelopment of Portland Park into an oval shape to allow greyhound racing to pay the bills. One FA Cup run did see a record crowd of over 13,000 turn out in 1951.

Development plans forced Ashington out of their historic stadium in 2008, the last game at Portland Park in February of that year attracting a crowd of almost 2,000, and the ground was recently demolished. The capsule buried by fans will be dug up again one hundred years from now. With permission from stephen.lewins, below are some final shots of Portland Park in its derelict state last year.

Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC
Portland Park, Ashington AFC

Portland Park, Ashington AFC

Stadium Spotlight: Gdańsk, Euro 2012

Continuing our series on the stadiums being built for the UEFA European Championships in 2012, to be hosted jointly by Poland and the Ukraine, we look today at Gdańsk. There, a new 44,000 capacity stadium, the PGE Arena Gdańsk, is currently under construction in the northern city on the Baltic coast. Just this month, PGE signed up for a five year sponsorship of the stadium, previously known (much more appropriately) as the Baltic Arena.

The $320m construction project, designed by architects Rhode, Kellermann and Wawrowsky, is well underway.

After the Euros, the stadium will be used by Lechia Gdańsk, who currently play in the 12,000 capacity Stadion Lechii, raising some questions about just how appropriate a 40,000+ facility will be for a team that has yo-yoed up and down from the first to the second division over the years.

Here are the pretty spectacular renderings of the new stadium:

Baltic Arena rendering
Baltic Arena rendering
Baltic Arena rendering

And one of those ever lovely promotional videos:

As of December 2009, construction was proceeding on schedule.

Construction of Euro 2012 stadium in Gdansk

An Unlikely World Cup Venue: Home Park, Plymouth

Theatre of Greens

The Football Association announced today it had further narrowed its potential World Cup venue locations in England to 17 stadiums in 12 cities. The familiar names were there — Old Trafford, Wembley, etc — but one that will certainly have surprised observers at home and abroad was that of Home Park, Plymouth.

This is not the Theatre of Dreams: it’s the “Theatre of Greens”, home of Plymouth Argyle in the Championship (one of only two English teams to play in green). Home Park dates back to 1893, and though it’s been renovated since, isn’t exactly up to FIFA World Cup standards at present, holding around 20,000 after considerable renovation in the past decade.

But Plymouth’s presentation to England’s World Cup Bid panel included ambitious plans to upgrade the stadium to a 46,000 “Wembley of the West”. The club is already committed to a £20 million expansion of the stadium to hold 27,000 regardless of the bid, with plans to increase the capacity to 46,000 should the bid be successful at a cost of a further £30 million.

The stadium design is by Populous, one of the world’s leading stadia-design firms, also responsible for Wembley Stadium. Of particular interest was that a representative of American firm AEG, who have built and operated MLS stadia for a few years now, joined the Plymouth delegation’s presentation to the panel, with AEG slated to operate the stadium.

MLS fans will not be surprised to learn that AEG’s interest in Home Park is in more than the sport of soccer, with rugby and other entertainment events also planned for the venue. Plymouth impressed this on the World Cup panel as evidence the giant stadium would not end up empty besides any World Cup games it hosted.

“I think they got the impact of the design of the stadium, and most importantly they got the point that the stadium is about multi-sport and entertainment use after the World Cup. It’s not just about Argyle’s 23 home games a season,” Plymouth’s executive director Keith Todd told the Plymouth Herald.

A curious wrinkle is that AEG’s billionaire owner and long-time major backer of MLS, Phil Anschutz, sits on the USA Bid Committee competing with England to win the right to host the World Cup. I guess it helps to have more than one basket to put your eggs in, doesn’t it?

Stadium Spotlight: Olympic National Stadium, Kiev

In a week that saw UEFA finally confirm that the Euro 2012 final will take place in Kiev, Ukraine, it seems only fitting to look at the stadium under construction that will host it.

The Olympic National Stadium in Kiev has a long history, first opening in 1923 as “Red Stadium” (you can guess why), and then going through further name changes that reflected the political situation in Ukraine: Stalin Respublikanskiy Stadium (1941-1953), Khrushchev Respublikanskiy Stadium (1953-1966), Kiev Central Stadium (1963-1978), Respublikanskiy Stadium (1978-1996) and finally NSC Olimpiysky (1996-).

The first major stadium renovation was finished in 1941, but on the day of the opening ceremony, the Nazi luftwaffe bombed the stadium.

Kiev Stadium, 1936

The latest reconstruction, an almost complete overhaul of the stadium’s structure and design, has been through some changes itself alread. This was the original winning bid’s design, by Taiwanese firm Archasia Design Group:

Stalin Respublikanskiy Stadium (1941-1953)
Khrushchev Respublikanskiy Stadium (1953-1966)
Kiev Central Stadium (1963-1978)
Respublikanskiy Stadium (1978-1996)
NSC Olimpiysky (1996-present)
Rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium

But in the summer of last year, slow progress led to Ukraine dropping Archasia from the project. Demolition, though, continued:

kiev-demolition

Confusion reigned for some months over the details of the design selected in place. Finally, official renderings came out of a more modest overhaul:

Official rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium for Euro 2012
Official rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium for Euro 2012
Official rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium for Euro 2012
Official rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium for Euro 2012

Official rendering of Kiev Olympic Stadium for Euro 2012

One year of construction has taken place, and the stadium currently looks like this:

Olimpiysky National under construction

Competing Footballing Codes: Australia’s World Cup Bid In Trouble?

Aussie Rules Football

Here’s one big problem the US and England don’t face with their World Cup bids: conflict with planned use of stadia by Aussie Rules Football and rugby league teams. The issue has caused a huge stir in Australia this week, with Football Federation Australia under fire for failing to consult with the governing bodies of the other football codes that share most of Australia’s largest stadiums about potential scheduling conflicts (Melbourne’s “rectangular” stadium currently under construction is so-named for its rarity as a non-oval shaped stadium suited specifically for soccer, though a rugby league team will also play there).

“They certainly have to improve their communication, not just with us but other people involved in and being affected by a World Cup,” he said.
“I think a World Cup is a great thing for this country (but) it’s time to get this stuff organised.
“They really need to be proactive and come up with solutions and start listening to the other codes and other people affected by this, particularly the venues, and not do all the talking.”

“They certainly have to improve their communication, not just with us but other people involved in and being affected by a World Cup,” Australian Football League (which runs Aussie football) boss Andrew Demetrio said of the FFA to the Roar. “I think a World Cup is a great thing for this country (but) it’s time to get this stuff organised. They really need to be proactive and come up with solutions and start listening to the other codes and other people affected by this, particularly the venues, and not do all the talking.”

Similarly, the National Rugby League’s CEO David Gallop said that “Some of the proposals are not going to be palatable to us and would be very costly to us. We’re not trying to stop the World Cup bid but we are certainly concerned about the impact that it will have on our season, our fans and the financial position of our clubs.”

However, one suspects that the FFA and NRL’s timing of this — just after the recent bidding presentations to FIFA and the 2010 World Cup draw — were designed to maximise publicity and hit the FFA up for compensation for rescheduling, as well as a reflection of concern that a successful World Cup could give soccer the boost it needs to become a leading football code in the country alongside the more popular Aussie Rules and Rugby League.

Consider the rest of Gallop’s comments regarding the possibility of compensation: “It’s not something that’s been discussed thus far but if that was part of the discussions then we’d be interested to hear what they’ve got to say. It’s obviously a big shot in the arm for a competitor and we’re running a business and we have to be mindful of that. Clearly a soccer World Cup is going to be a big shot in the arm for their game, not only in the period that it’s on but in the years that follow.”

In the U.S., the NFL is obviously confident enough that a soccer World Cup using many of its own teams’ venues would merely mean a little more summer revenue for them — no scheduling conflicts there — and isn’t worried about soccer as a competing code. In Australia, it looks like the other footballing codes are concerned enough to risk damaging their country’s World Cup bid.

Stadium Spotlight: Stade de France That Never Was

In 1995, the final decision had to be made on the design for the Stade de France, to host the 1998 World Cup final and become the new national stadium. Choosing between the two finalist designs, outgoing prime minister Edouard Balladur decided to go with Michel Macary’s design: the one we now know as the Stade de France, which is nice enough.

But boy, look at what at could have been if Balladur had gone with the other design by Jean Nouvel (perhaps France’s most celebrated architect, who later initiated and won legal action against the government for flouting European free competition laws in their selection process). Here’s his design:

Stade de France - Nouvel design

Looks straightforward enough, right?  Look again. And again. And again. Below, the renderings show that Nouvel had come up with what he called

a radical solution that resolves the problem of the angle of view onto the playing fields and ensures optimal field lighting. The stadium is not partially modifiable- it is 100% flexible. A complementary flexibility is included: the sliding roof maximizes sunshine on the field and shades the stands in summertime. The underside of the grandstands is lined with retractable awnings that hang from the level of the stands. The stadium will be for between 25 and 80,000 spectators.

So, you know, just in case you ever need a stadium where the stands, roof and pretty much everything else moves, you know who to call.

Stade de France - Nouvel design
Stade de France - Nouvel design
Stade de France - Nouvel design
Stade de France - Nouvel design
Stade de France - Nouvel design

Stadium Spotlight: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium

That is unlikely to be the final name for the stadium, but “rectangular” is a fitting working name as the 31,500 capacity stadium, which will host soccer and rugby, is being made in part to replace the reliance on the oval stadia of Melbourne suitable for Australian Rules Football and cricket.

Construction on the new stadium began last year, and here’s the progress so far (live webcam here), with a scheduled opening of May 2010. Check out the LED roof lighting.

Melbourne Rectangular Stadium rendering

Melbourne Rectangular Stadium rendering

September 6, 2009. By rosscova on Flickr.

September 6, 2009. By rosscova on Flickr.

November 20, 2009. By Dave and Bec on Flickr.

November 20, 2009. By Dave and Bec on Flickr.

October 31, 2009. By Victory In Melbourne on Flickr.

October 31, 2009. By Victory In Melbourne on Flickr.

Peter Wilt’s Top 20 MLS Stadia (Part II)

Last week I wrote about the bottom half of my personal top 20 stadia (out of 32 total) in MLS history.  This week I share with you my top 10 (11 really).   My bottom seven were all larger stadia with capacities of 30,000+ and the next three were each smaller stadia.  Today’s list reveals nine smaller soccercentric stadia and two of the jumbo variety.  Let’s start with one of the big ones:

10. RFK Stadium, DC United: This multi-purpose stadia has survived the Washington Senators, Redskins and Nationals and has been converted into a pretty nice soccer stadium.  The old movable left field baseball grandstand was relocated to the touchline to create very good sightlines for sideline ticket holders.  The metal treads and risers also provide plenty of bounce for the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava that give it a unique and sometimes frightening experience for first time fans.

While the stadium has too many seats for most DC United matches and lacks many modern amenities, it possesses more history and tradition than most MLS stadia and the field is usually in very good shape for soccer.  The ring of honor of famous Washington athletes that surrounds RFK’s upper deck facade provided me with the inspiration to create Chicago’s Ring of Fire.

RFK Stadium

RFK Stadium

9. Columbus Crew Stadium:  CCS is the grand daddy of soccercentric stadia.  Built privately by Hunt Sports Group on the cheap for less than $27 million in 1999, its bells and whistles pale in comparison to the newer stadia.  In fact, I recall being in the visitor’s locker room prior to a game at CCS when Toyota Park was in its design phase and Fire players were pleading with me to make sure we would have bigger locker rooms with more shower heads and toilets than CCS’ meager locker rooms offered.

But CCS is more than simply “The First” of a generation of soccer stadia.  Renovated suites, a retrofitted stage and hospitality area, a newly energized supporters’ section and very good sightlines all are important reasons CCS is still among MLS’ best.

Crew Stadium

Crew Stadium

8. Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Colorado Rapids: This ranking is based on second hand information as I’ve never been to Dick’s.  Most people I speak to about Dick’s and televised and photographic views indicate a stadium similar to BMO Field with a nice roof, grass field and poor location.  I believe the unique roof line is supposed to evoke images of the nearby Rocky Mountains.  Instead it reminds me of the canopy roof of the nearby Denver International Airport.

That does remind me, though, that I heard stories Major League Baseball prevented Coors Field from having one of the coolest stadium design elements ever.  As I understand, the Colorado Rockies wanted their outfield fenceline to mirror the peaks and valleys of the Colorado Rocky Mountains only to have MLB insist on a straight line wall.  And I thought the NFL was the No Fun League.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

Dick's Sporting Goods Park

7. BMO Field, Toronto FC: I attended BMO’s Official Grand Opening Game (though there was a previous game) when Toronto FC hosted the Chicago Fire on seat cushion giveaway (and apparently throw on the field) day.  I bought a Montreal Canadiens jersey for the game, because I figured it would upset a few Toronto fans….it did.  BMO’s lakefront location on the former site of the Hockey Hall of Fame is closer to an urban center than any of MLS’ other soccercentric stadia, which, along with its switch to natural grass, is a tremendous advantage and bumps it just ahead of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

BMO Field, Grand Opening Day

6. Pizza Hut Park, FC Dallas: After they heard about Toyota Park’s inclusion of a permanent stage, the Hunt Sports Group redesigned PHP.  Their stage, however, has no seats in front of it nor suites alongside it, leaving the look of a giant, vacant concrete block on one end.  The ex-urban location is a deterrent to the MetroPlex’s many Hispanic fans, the lack of a roof makes for some very warm days and the distance of the locker rooms from the field is a bit of an irritant to the players, but the field view stadium club, the quality playing surface, the stadium merchandise shop and the surrounding soccer complex are all important pluses.

Pizza Hut Park

Pizza Hut Park

5. Qwest Field, Seattle Sounders FC: If they averaged 15,000 fans a game, I suppose I wouldn’t be ranking Qwest this high, but the fact is Sounders FC has made an NFL stadium intimate by virtue of the size of its crowds and the design of the stadium.  Like new Soldier Field, Qwest Field feels vertical.  The roof, steep grading of seats, first class amenities and 30,000 fans, many of whom are passionate, work well together to create the best big stadium feel MLS has ever had on a consistent basis.  Opening up the Hawks Nest next season will only add to the vertical and intimate feel of Qwest for Sounders FC matches.

Qwest Field. Photo: The West End on Flickr

Qwest Field. Photo: The West End on Flickr

4.  Home Depot Center, Los Angeles Galaxy: Rossetti Architects have had the most influence in soccer stadium design in the United States.  Their creations include each of the top five MLS Stadia in my list including their first venture, the self-proclaimed Cathedral of Soccer in the Americas, the HDC.  I have been there for many great soccer games including the Fire’s frustrating 2003 MLS Cup loss and the inaugural WPS Championship Game, but the most memorable event I ever attended at the HDC was the funeral of Los Angeles Galaxy President and General Manager Doug Hamilton.  I served as a pall bearer carrying Doug’s casket on and off the field through the player tunnel while a bagpiper played Danny Boy and Amazing Grace.  It was the most moving experience I’ve ever had in a soccer stadium.

For many, the HDC is the best MLS stadium and legitimate arguments can be made for that – until next April.  Its stadium club, suites and other hospitality areas are extremely nice.  It’s office space, beautiful landscape and connected facilities (indoor velodrome, tennis stadium, track and field stadium and a dozen soccer fields) are all very nice, but the stadium itself falls short of the top three IMH(and biased)O.  My two biggest complaints about the HDC are the poor quality of the playing surface due to over usage and the distance from the seating bowl to the touchline.

Home Depot Center. Photo: Whappen on Flickr.

Home Depot Center. Photo: Wha'ppen on Flickr.

3. Toyota Park, Chicago Fire: When designing Toyota Park, we worked with Rossetti Architects using the HDC as a baseline.  After we selected Bridgeview as the winning community of our stadium bidding process, Phil Anschutz almost apologetically confided to me, “You know Peter, we’re not going to be able to build you as nice a stadium as we did in Los Angeles.”  The budget restrictions Mr. Anschutz was referring to created limitations that resulted in only one training field, less storage and office space than at the HDC and a stadium club that doesn’t overlook the field.  But using hindsight from HDC, we added several improvements including a center entrance player tunnel, ground level front row, seating much closer to the touchline, steeper rake of seats and a permanent stage that protects the field and provides a nice field view hospitality area.

And perhaps the most important feature is one that is underground: a $1.7 million dollar soccer field with a year round field heating system that keeps the playing surface among the League’s best in spite of the challenging Chicago climate.  At the groundbreaking, when the stadium design was completed, AEG President Tim Leiweke confided to me, “I don’t know how you did it, but this is going to be nicer than Home Depot.”

Toyota Park. Photo: section8chicago on Flickr

Toyota Park. Photo: section8chicago on Flickr

2. Rio Tinto Stadium, Real Salt Lake: Rio Tinto is a nicer version of Toyota Park.  Just as the Chicago Fire took learnings from HDC, Real Salt Lake, working again with Rossetti, used the Toyota Park blue print and evolved it using lessons from the Fire’s home.  The stadium club overlooks the field, the general and premium seat amenities are all a bit nicer than Toyota Park and the view of the Wasatch Mountains is gorgeous.  The south end stands are portable allowing for seats for sporting events and a permanent stage for concerts. And I love their use of text messaging for in seat food service, which is available for all fans.

Rio Tinto Stadium

Rio Tinto Stadium

1B. Union Field at Chester, Philadelphia Union: The two new MLS stadia for 2010 will in all likelihood be improvements on anything we’ve seen to date in MLS.  Based on descriptions, artists renderings, photos and costs, I’m giving a strong edge to Red Bull Arena for the new best soccer stadium in the history of MLS.  Like its 2010 stadium twin Red Bull Arena, Union Field is being built on a cleaned up brown field near a river in an industrial suburb near a major urban area.  Union Field’s design has morphed since it was first announced in order to become more budget friendly as the economic collapse changed the business paradigm that it was based upon, but it will likely be nicer than anything built previously in MLS.

Union Field

Union Field rendering

Red Bull Arena

Red Bull Arena rendering

1A. Red Bull Arena, New York Red Bulls: They’ve been talking about a new stadium for New York’s MLS team since Charlie Stillitano was there.  Several chief executives later, the dream and the “60-90 day” promises are finally coming to reality next spring.  Despite all the criticism Nick Sakiewicz has received from fans over the years, he will be able to rightfully take great pride in his role in developing the two best stadia in MLS history, both opening next spring – that is quite remarkable.  And Red Bull Arena is going to be a thing of beauty.  With its state of the art features and dedication to be a soccercentric stadium it may be a long time before anyone bumps RB Arena off my top spot.

So there you go, my top 10 (or 11 really).

Let me know how you rank your Top 10 (or 11) and why you chose yours differently than mine.  Have a great week.  Go Fire…er…uh….never mind.

Stadium Spotlight: Donbass Arena, Donetsk

Donbass Arena opened on August 29th, 2009, and this week will host its first international and one of the biggest game’s in Ukraine’s history: the second-leg of their World Cup 2010 qualifier playoff against Greece. Ukraine are in great shape to qualify after a 0-0 draw in Athens this weekend.

The game could be taking place in no more beautiful setting.

Donbass Arena

Donbass Arena

Exterior of Donbass Arena

Exterior of Donbass Arena

Donbass Arena seating

Donbass Arena seating

Donbass Arena Club Shop

Donbass Arena Club Shop

Inside Donbass Arena

Inside Donbass Arena

The outside of Donbass Arena, beautifully landscaped.

The outside of Donbass Arena, beautifully landscaped.

Yet the 51,000 capacity stadium may not be as full as it has been since it opened in August, as huge crowds have cheered on Shakhtar Donetsk to a series of resounding victories since the stadium’s opening.

High ticket prices set by the Ukrainian Football Federation have caused an outcry ahead of Wednesday’s international, with Shakhtar Donetsk’s President Rinat Akhmetov yesterday writing an open letter to FFU President Grygoriy Surkis, accusing the FFU of greed and writing (in the official Donbass Arena’s site’s own translation) that “FFU has fixed incredibly high prices for tickets. I have been telling several times and I repeat once again that the supporters were treated, to put it mildly, badly. Moreover, we are facing the risk to see an empty stadium during this principally important match.”

Such beauty, such an important occasion. . .But a half-empty stadium?

Building Stadiums: Angola, China, and the African Cup of Nations

CAN 2010

The African teams are mostly set.  After last weekend’s final qualifiers, we know that Cameroon, Nigeria, and either Egypt or Algeria will join hosts South Africa, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana as Africa’s representatives at the first African World Cup.  But those qualifiers also served to decide the field for a more immediate event: the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Angola in January (shorthanded as CAN2010—for the Campeonato Africano das Nações em Futebol Angola 2010).  So the African qualifiers will first be travelling to Angola, where they will be joined by the hosts and the teams that finished second and third in the four team final qualifying groups: Gabon, Togo, Tunisia, Mozambique, Zambia, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Malawi.

Which all leads me to a random trivia question: What is the most expensive city in the world for foreigners?  Tokyo?  Copenhagen?  Geneva?  All good guesses, all in the top 10.  But, out of context, I bet few people would have guessed the number one spot goes to the city that this coming Friday (November 20th) will host the draw for the CAN2010: Luanda, Angola.  Luanda is an archetypal global mega-city where massive wealth (due primarily to Angola’s huge reserves of oil and diamonds) combines with massive poverty (due primarily to the dual legacies of Portuguese colonialism and a brutal 27 year civil war between its 1975 independence and the 2002 death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi) to create a place rife with both hope and hardship.  And now, during January’s African Cup of Nations, a place that makes an unlikely host for a major international soccer tournament.

I spent six months living in Angola during 2002-2003, working on my dissertation research through a volunteer posting with an international organization doing development-through-sports programs in refugee camps.  It was an intense and rich experience.  Living in Luanda and working outside the city in communities hosting refugees from Congo along with internally-displaced Angolans, I saw much of the diversity of Africa within a few square miles.  The region has a mix of quaint but crumbling Portuguese colonial villas, bullet strewn government blocks, private beach resorts, sprawling slums, modern high-rise bank headquarters, lush agricultural villages, modern suburban developments, old Cuban military bases, glistening corporate mansions in walled compounds, and hardscrabble squatter camps.  And then there were those ubiquitous African landmarks: hundreds of improvised soccer fields crammed into any available nook.

But now Angola is doing some improvising on a much bigger scale: through arrangements with China, Angola is building four brand new stadiums to host the Cup of Nations.  The designs for these stadiums were up on Pitch Invasion last month, and their aesthetics are well worth appreciating.  But the stories around the stadiums are also worth some consideration.  As the tournament approaches I hope I’ll have the chance to write some more personal stories about my soccer related experiences in Angola.  For starters, however, I’ll focus on the stadiums and the nation itself.

Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda's stadium for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda

The Geo-Politics of Building Stadiums

As a country Angola is a prime example of the “paradox of plenty:” having massive quantities of natural resources too often makes places ripe for exploitation and destructive inequality.  Angola’s approximately 18 million people have a per capita GDP of around $6000 per year—which is relatively high for Africa, particularly in a country just emerging from a long civil war—but 70% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, the country has extremely high rates of infant mortality, low life expectancy, and is often rated among the most corrupt countries in the world.  In my experience, however, Angolans are also a proud and resilient people, and considering the challenges of overcoming the damning legacies of colonialism and war there is still some cause for hope.

One major reason for both hope and concern is the fact that among Angola’s wealth of natural resources is oil—what Venezuelan politician Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo called “the devil’s excrement.”  The short and massively over-simplified version of why Angola’s civil war went on for 27 long years is that one side had oil, the other side had diamonds, and the long-burn of the war allowed each to keep funding themselves.

The more contemporary geo-political implication of Angola’s oil is that it is one of several African countries embroiled in a quiet contest between the US and China in their quest to ensure energy for the future.  One by-product of the end of Angola’s civil war was the opportunity for the country and multi-national countries to more efficiently exploit the country’s oil—Angola became a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2007, and will host its first set of major OPEC meetings this December.  Several months ago when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on her first major African tour, the New York Times declared “once again Angola is a crucial battleground.  This time, it is the contest for influence between the United States and an increasingly powerful, resource-hungry China.”

And what does all this have to do with soccer?  One of China’s most interesting tactics as it strives for global influence as an emerging superpower is what some have called “stadium diplomacy.”  China’s general scheme in the world of international development has been to worry a lot less about moralizing and telling developing countries what to do (which has been the general caricature of much Western aid), and to worry a lot more about making friends and creating business opportunities with no strings attached.  In Africa at least, building soccer stadiums are a great way to do that.

According to at least one source: “The Chinese have built or are in the process of building stadiums across a veritable A to Z of African states, including Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, the Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Niger, Guinea, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.”  I can’t imagine the US Congress would be willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for soccer stadiums in Africa, but China doesn’t seem to have that problem.

There is also a sort of natural political connection between Angola and China since the governments in both places have a historical tie to Marxism and a contemporary affinity for making lots of money.  The MPLA party has officially ruled Angola since independence, and much of the framing of the long civil revolved around cold war ideology.  One of the amazing stories of the Angolan civil war involves a turning point when heavily armored and anti-communist South African convoys made a long charge up the Atlantic coast to take Luanda—but the MPLA called on their comrade Fidel Castro who sent Cuban troops to help the Angolans repel the invaders.  But now, likely to Fidel’s great consternation, Luanda is home to gleaming new skyscrapers for capitalist behemoths such as ExxonMobil that sit, with great irony, just off Avenida Lenin and not far from Rua Comandante Che Guevara.

The Practice of Building Stadiums

The situation in Angola does raise interesting questions about when and how a developing country should spend money on sports.  This question seems particularly acute considering the way China tends to go about building the African stadiums—by using Chinese contractors and Chinese workers.  So where South Africa has tried to partially justify the massive expenditures it is making for World Cup stadiums by arguing that the money offers employment to local workers (of course, the South African worker’s strikes confirm this is not always a clean process either), Angola is just making sure the stadiums get built.  In one report from the BBC, for example, the construction site at Benguela (a provincial capital on Angola’s Atlantic coast) was reported to have 700 Chinese workers contrasted with only 250 locals.

Benguela, Complexo da Sr. da Graca

Benguela, Complexo da Sr. da Graca

Overall, though there has been much concern and speculation as to whether having Angola host in 2010 was too ambitious—a familiar refrain for international tournaments in Africa considering naysayers targeting the just completed FIFA U-17 World Cup in Nigeria and upcoming South Africa 2010—it does look like the Angolan stadiums will be ready.  True, the opening date for the main stadium in Luanda has been pushed back, having targeted a grand opening for next week against Ghana in a friendly that will now be played in the old Estádio da Cidadela.  And they may have to do without the exterior landscaping that helped make the early drawings look so pretty.  But Luanda really is the least of the concerns—though the new Luanda stadium would be the biggest, the old stadium is still serviceable.

The other stadiums, in contrast, are in provinces more directly affected by the long civil conflict and without Luanda’s access to resources.  The fact that the stadiums in Benguela, Lubango, and Cabinda seem well in order, though smaller than in Luanda, is certainly an accomplishment of some sort.  And even with the Luanda stadium, the few Angolan workers are confident—as one told the Reuters when asked if the stadium would be ready: “I’m sure it will, the Chinese are building this thing.”

The other thing the Angolans, or the Chinese, or whoever, should probably get some credit for are the details of the stadiums themselves.  I attended a few games at the old Estádio da Cidadela, and it is one of those classic cement monstrosities common to many African capitals.  It can handle lots of people, and does the basic job, but that’s all that can be said for it.

From concept on, the new Angolan stadiums seem to be something more.  The original designs were apparently made by an Angolan architect to be based on the Welwitschia plant, which grows only on the borders of Angola and Namibia.  And, at least for the Luanda stadium, Reuters notes: “The stadium rim is expected to bend like the horns of the black sable antelope — the country’s national symbol. The soccer team is known as the ‘Black Antelopes.’”  Others of the stadiums also have thoughtful touches—such as Benguela’s Complexo da Sr. da Graça which opens out to a view of the ocean.  The efforts to make the stadiums aesthetically pleasing and culturally meaningful is important in African contexts long assigned only austere basics.

It is also worth noting that despite the expense of living in Luanda, the estimated costs of the stadiums could be considered reasonable in comparison to the insane sums devoted to other modern complexes: a common estimate seems to be a total cost of around $600 million for the four Angolan stadiums.  While that is still a huge amount of money to spend on sports, the four combined are only slightly more than the single Green Point Stadium being built in Cape Town for the World Cup.  Granted, the Angolan stadiums are significantly smaller and not fully enclosed, and soccer spectators may not appreciate the eyesore of running tracks, but considering where Angola is coming from and how it has all come together the stadiums would still seem to be an intriguing sort of modern soccer monument.


MLS History As Seen Through Its Stadia: Top 20 Countdown!

One can make a number of observations about the development of Major League Soccer by examining the stadia its teams have played in.  Over the next two weeks, I’m going to rank 20 of the thirty-two primary MLS stadia over the last 14 years and share my impressions and a few anecdotes.  Through the rankings, which in general tend to be in chronological order, one can see not only the evolution of MLS stadia, but evolution of the League itself.  The stadia are listed in order from bottom to top, of my preference (caveat: I’ve only watched soccer games in 16 of the 20).  Here are numbers 20 through 11 (next week will feature my top 10):

20) Ohio Stadium, Columbus Crew: Ohio State’s iconic horseshoe gave the Crew credibility by playing on the home field of Central Ohio’s only major league sports team.  The field unfortunately was ridiculously narrow, because it was surrounded by the historic Jesse Owens Track and despite Kroger’s huge season ticket commitment and the Crew’s attendance success during MLS’ early years, its crowds were dwarfed in the cavernous stadium.

Ohio Stadium

Ohio Stadium

19) Giants Stadium, MetroStars/Red Bulls: Another over-sized behemoth that gave MLS credibility in its early years, but quickly worked against the League when crowds settled in at sub-15,000 numbers.  Expenses were notoriously high (>$100,000 per game), atmosphere was non-existent despite the Empire Supporters Group’s best efforts and field issues both when the grass was real and when it wasn’t.  As the Red Bulls clear out, all of MLS can say “good riddance”.

Giants Stadium

Giants Stadium

18) Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Wizards: Like Giants Stadium, Arrowhead isn’t old enough to have character or new enough to have first class amenities.  It did have too many seats and not enough fans to give Wiz or Wizards games any sense of intimacy.  Mentioning the Wiz reminds me of two stories from the team’s first year.  Hunt Sports Group paid the Wiz electronics storesan undisclosed sum to permit use of the name and when it came time for a marketing slogan, one Wiz staffer suggested: “The Wiz, You Gotta Go!”  The slogan was rejected ;-)

Arrowhead Stadium

Arrowhead Stadium

17) The Rose Bowl, Los Angeles Galaxy:Like Ohio Stadium, the Rose Bowl is old and lacked amenities…unlike Ohio Stadium, it had a really nice playing surface and actually looked like it was filling up with people occasionally for MLS games.  The Galaxy downsized the 100,000 seat stadium to nearly half it capacity with tarps for its first ever game.  To everyone’s surprise, the Jorge Campos led side attracted so many fans they caused gridlock on the 210.  Fans and staff hurriedly tore half the tarps off the seats.  New Galaxy fans abandoned their cars on the roadside, climbed down the highway embankment and stood in line for hours (the last ticket was purchased with less than five minutes in the game).  Alas, the love affair tapered off, but the team still attracted an average of 21,000 fans in its last Rose Bowl season prior to moving to the number four ranked stadium in my countdown.

The Galaxy staff was a first class operation, but they worked out of a series of connected remodeled mobile home units in the Rose Bowl parking lot that occasionally became home to small mammals.  I’ll always have fondness in my heart for the Rose Bowl for being home to three great moments in my life: 1) the Fire captured its inaugural season MLS Cup there on October 25, 1998 in front of 51,000+; 2) I sat next to Oscar De La Hoya in a Rose Bowl suite for the USA vs. Columbia match in the 1994 World Cup and 3) after a later Fire vs. Galaxy match, I met the gold lamed and sequined singing sensation KC of Sunshine band fame.

Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl

16) Gillette Stadium, New England Revolution: I hate this place…during my Fire tenure it was the place playoff dreams went to die…and the security was suffocating…and the field was crappy…and I had more bad away fan experiences there than any other stadium I’ve been to….in other words, I’m way too biased to objectively rank this stadium.  In fact, given my feelings about it, a rational person would probably move it north in the rankings half a dozen spots…the Fort is pretty good (underrated actually), the Minutemen are kitschy (in a good way) and the stadium club is nice…OK, there you go, I said something nice about it…and Evan Whitney, Tony Biscaia, Prairie Rose Claytonand a bunch of other good eggs support the perennial MLS runners up in good form.

Gillette Stadium

Gillette Stadium

15) Robertson Stadium, Houston Dynamo Maybe after all the reports about the crappy field conditions earlier in the season and again last weekend, I should drop the home of the Texian Armya couple spots.  I’ve never been to Robertson, but on the telly it looks intimate and the fans do a great job of creating a home field advantage.  Really seems to be one of the best atmospheres in MLS though the organization and fans don’t seem to get the credit they should.  If you moved them to New Jersey, they’d be the darlings of MLS….or they’d catch whatever disease is in the Jersey water and spontaneously combust.

Robertson Stadium

Robertson Stadium

14) New Soldier Field, Chicago Fire: Idecided to rank the new instead of the old, because the new has a large number of seats which are, IMHO, the best sightlines for soccer in the United States or Canada.  The 200 level of the Cadillac Club…or whatever it’s now called, is cantilevered over the 100 level meaning the entire level feels like its suspended over the near touchline.  And the amenities are incredible.  Thousands of fans not only have an incredible view of the field, but they can also take a few steps back into a state of the art stadium club then take a few more steps beyond the stadium club and actually stand amid the historic Doric colonnade on the stadium’s east side and soak in views of one of the world’s most gorgeous skylines and Lake Michigan.

The view from the 300 level which was rarely opened for Fire games and the seats behind the south goal are also terrific.  The front row of seats behind the south goal at the new Soldier Field are about 30 yards closer to the field than the view from behind the south goal at the old horseshoed Soldier Field.  The field at new Soldier Field is better than at the old, but it was still thin in the beginning of the season due to the cold spring along the lakefront), thick in the middle of the season and long, thick and bumpy in the end of the season (when the Bears season starts).  The Bears, traditionally a strong defensive team, liked to keep the grass long to slow opponents’ offenses down, which didn’t really make it a good soccer pitch.

Soldier Field

Soldier Field

13) Spartan Stadium, San Jose Earthquakes: Man, I saw Spartan on television Sunday night as San Jose State was being destroyed by Nevada.  Made me smile, because it bothered me that the university didn’t give the Quakes a legitimate chance to stay on campus.  Just as well I guess.

It’s now fake grass and the width will always be narrow due to the pillared concrete walls.  It hosted the first MLS match ever (thank you Eric!), an MLS All-Star Game and back in the day, Georgie Best!

Spartan Stadium

Spartan Stadium

12) Cardinal Stadium, Chicago Fire – Great location and incredibly intimate.  Life (aka the Chicago Park District, Chicago Bears, Mayor Daley, Ed Bedore and Jerry Reinsdorf) handed us a bag of lemons and I think we made a pretty damn tasty pitcher of lemonade!  2002 was hard.  Hard on the staff.  Hard on the players.  Hard on Bob Bradley.  Due to the fake fake grass (it wasn’t even Field Turf), we suffered more knee injuries than any other season and had one of our worst home records ever.  When we got the official word in December, 2001 that we’d need to find a new home, we only had a few months to convince the City of Naperville to let us convert a nice little 4,500 seat small college stadium into a 15,000 seat Major League Soccer stadium for up to twenty home games.

Cardinal Stadium

Cardinal Stadium

 

Cardinal Stadium is located in an idyllic suburban location hemmed in by a small river, a charming downtown, a college campus and a neighborhood filled with many historic residences valued at well over a million dollars.  It seemed to be the definition of NIMBY, but our staff did yeoman’s work, earned Naperville’s approval and a second year under a new coach, many new players and new attitude, which led to arguably the Fire’s best seaon ever.

11) Lockhart Stadium, Miami Fusion: It wasn’t appreciated as a “soccer specific stadium” during its MLS run….I’m not even sure the term existed in 1998 when the expansion Miami Fusion hosted the expansion Chicago Fire’s first game (second game for the Fusion).  Tony Kuhn started and Roman Kosecki scored the game winner for the good guys.  Great crowd, great atmosphere.  Didn’t last.  Wasn’t the stadium’s fault.  The open air “suites” were certainly nothing special, but it did provide a certain level of exclusivity, the field was generally in good condition and the few times the place was filled, the passion of the fans was infectious.  One can argue its location was to blame for the Fusion’s demise, but I’d put geography down the list of the perpetrators.  Poor early management was the real criminal.  Doug Hamilton’s efforts darn near created a true Miami miracle, but he couldn’t quite overcome the thrifty ownership and the errors of the past.

Lockhart Stadium

Lockhart Stadium

I’m not ranking every MLS stadium from the League’s first 14 years…Old Soldier Field, Foxboro Stadium, Buck Shaw Stadium, the Cotton Bowl, Dragon Stadium, Raymond James, the Sombrero, new or old Mile High, Rice-Eccles and CommunityAmerica Ballpark were all left off this list…that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re in the Top 20 MLS stadia…I simply didn’t choose to include them in the review.  If i had chosen to review them, they all probably would’ve fallen in the bottom half of my rankings.  Next week, I’ll give you my top ten.

Photo Daily: Stadium Spotlight – Castelão, Fortaleza

Time is short today, so the weekly stadium spotlight series takes a brief look at a stadium that has a considerable transformation planned for it.

In May, the twelve host cities for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil were announced. One of the winning bids was Fortaleza, the state capital of Ceará in Northeastern Brazil. Their stadium looks set to be the Castelão (also known as the Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo or the Gigante da Boa Vista), an existing venue due for a considerable upgrade.

Here’s how the stadium looks now:

estadio-castelao

Opened in 1973, the 60,326 capacity stadium has hosted the Brazilian national team several times and was renovated in 2002, but still needs a major upgrade to be ready for the World Cup.

Here is the rendering released by the Ceará state government for the renovation:

Rendering of
Fortaleza (lit. “Fortress”, Portuguese pronunciation: [foɾtaˈlezɐ]) is the state capital of Ceará, located in Northeastern Brazil.

Stadium Spotlight: Grand Stade, Olympique Lyonnais

Grand Stade

For almost 60 years, Lyon have been playing in the Stade de Gerland, a venerable old stadium built in 1914 and a World Cup finals venue in 1998. But their recent run of success of eight consecutive championships from 2002 to 2008 has Lyon planning a rich new future at the Grand Stade in eastern Lyon.

The stadium has been designed by the architects Populous, with a proposed capacity of 62,000 at a projected cost of a not inconsiderable 350 million euros, 100 million over the original estimate.

It was announced last week that the stadium would open in December 2013, and will be located in the Décines area of Lyon. It’s already on France’s proposed stadium list for their Euro 2016 bid.

As usual, the architects have some bluster about the meaning of the stadium which doesn’t seem to bear a lot of relation to the rather standard bowl design:

It sits within an overall masterplan and architectural concept that acknowledges that the event experience extends outside the time constraints of a match within the stadium. It is an experience that can be broken down into the approach, the arrival, the event itself and departure. The build up of anticipation and excitement along this journey is paramount, with the impact of the stadium design extending far beyond its ticketed perimeter.

The stadium has something of an Allianz arena feel to it, with a facade that changes colour and a somewhat cold and bland look to the interior. Not, in my opinion, the most adventurous design around. Your thoughts?

Exterior of the Grand Stade

Exterior of the Grand Stade

The exterior lit red

The exterior lit red

Rendering of the interior

Rendering of the interior

Aerial view of the Grand Stade

Aerial view of the Grand Stade

Inside the Grand Stade

Inside the Grand Stade

Entrance to the Grand Stade

Entrance to the Grand Stade

http://www.eurosport.fr/football/lyon-le-stade-en-2013_sto2099555/flashnews.shtml

Stadium Spotlight: RIP Ninian Park

Ninian Park, built in 1910, was the home of Cardiff City FC until earlier this year.  The last ever game at Ninian Park was on April 25th, 2009, with Cardiff losing 3-0 to Ipswich Town.

Cardiff now play at Cardiff City Stadium, a 27,000 all-seater venue, and Ninian Park is currently being torn to pieces to be replaced by a housing development, as this week’s stadium spotlight shows.

Mess room
Demolition of Ninian Park
Demolition of Ninian Park
Demolition of Ninian Park
cardiff-demolition-2
cardiff-demolition-3

Photo credits: joncandy on Flickr, via the Pitch Invasion Photo Pool.

Stadia Spotlight: Angola, African Cup of Nations 2010

You might notice the cheeky slight change to our weekly stadium feature’s name — we’ve pluralised it as we are looking at more than one this week.  We feature the renderings for the four new, impressive stadiums being built in Angola for the African Cup of Nations 2010, to be held in January.

Luanda
Capacity: 40,000
Stadium name: Estádio Cidade Universitária

Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda's stadium for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Rendering of Estádio Cidade Universitária, Luanda's stadium under construction for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Benguela
Stadium Name: Complexo da Sr. da Graça  
Capacity: 25,000

Benguela, Complexo da Sr. da Graca

Rendering of Complexo da Sr. da Graça, Benguela's stadium under construction for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Cabinda
Stadium Name: Estádio Chimandela
Capacity: 25,000

Cabinda

Rendering of Estádio Chimandela, Cabinda's stadium under construction for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

Lubango
Stadium Name: Estádio Alto da Chela
Capacity: 25,000

Stadium in Lubango

Rendering of Estádio Alto da Chela, Lubango's stadium under construction for the 2010 African Cup of Nations

As the tournament gets closer, we’ll report on the final stages of stadium construction, but it looks as if — for a country torn apart by civil war for most of the past three decades — it will have beautiful stadia to host the Cup. And plenty of running tracks for use afterwards. . .

Stadium Spotlight: Design Proposal — Dalian Shide, the Organic Stadium

Dalian Stadium

Dalian Shide Stadium Rendering

Stadium Name: Dalian Shide Stadium
Location: Dalian Liaoning, China
Team: Dalian Shide F.C., China
Capacity: Unknown
Opening: Unknown
Cost: Unknown
Architects: NBBJ Architects (US)

Background:
Dalian Shide F.C., founded in 1983, play in the Chinese Super League, currently at 30,776 capacity Jinzhou Stadium — a stadium that was only itself built in 1997. But such is the pace of change in China that Dalian Shide will soon be playing in a new venue. UN Studio won the contest (see their “bamboo stadium” design here), but it’s worth looking at a much more innovative design entered for the stadium by NBBJ Architects out of L.A.

The Design
Touted as the “Garden Stadium”, the architects say its carbon footprint will be “minimal”. Its eco-friendliness includes water recycling, renewable energy and “green walls” — clad with living plants. NBBJ calls it an “organic stadium”, using reclaimed land folded in half around the seating bowl in the stadium, like so:

Dalian Stadium -- walls folding up

Dalian Shide Stadium -- walls folding up

The roof is perhaps the strangest part of the design. The architects say “The roof is a flexible system of cables and fabric to protect the fans from the elements, beautiful and unique, fluttering overhead,” but it’s rather unclear what elements such a flexible roof would protect fans from (it sure doesn’t look water-proof) — and might all that fluttering not be rather distracting during a game?

Dalian Stadium rendering -- the roof

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- the roof

The walls of the stadium “contain all of the vital systems of the building: the structure for the roof, the VIP suites, the toilets and concessions stands, the mechanical spaces, and the ticket booths.” These are touted as a key part of the sustainable structure, as they “Provide building insulation, reduces energy use, reduces heat island effect, filters air pollution, reduces green house gases, softens the typical hard edge of a stadium.”

Dalian Stadium rendering -- green walls

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- green walls

As you can see, the stadium is essentially two-sided: the architects say that opening the seating bowl to the city of Dalian “not only creates a more integrated experience for those seated in the bowl and walking on the concourses, but it also allows a connection to the site and city surrounding the stadium, allowing the local community to be a part of the event.” How that might work in practice, of course, is a different story (anyone else have visions of the stadium being trampled down by herds of hooligans at a future World Cup? No?)

Dalian Stadium rendering -- from the water

Dalian Shide Stadium rendering -- from the water

Note: M below corrected the original version of this article, by noting UN Studio had now won the design contest. We had missed that important fact!

Dalian Shide stadium

Stadium Spotlight: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland

Welcome to our new Tuesday feature, stadium spotlight. This week, we look at the replacement for Lansdowne Road in Ireland.

Aviva Stadium location

Aviva Stadium location

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.

Background:
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.

The Design:
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”.

Aviva Stadium rendering

Aviva Stadium rendering

Aviva Stadium: Interior rendering

Aviva Stadium: Interior rendering

Construction Photos

October 2008. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

October 2008. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

March 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

March 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

March 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

March 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

August 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

August 2009. Photo credit: Peter Barrow Photography

The Best Stadiums in the World

The Times had an interesting list of the top ten stadiums in the world last week, as judged by Tony Evans. Here’s his top ten, with a photo of each — what do you think of the list?  It seems impossible for one man to have visited enough world stadia to have even made this judgment, and there doesn’t appear to be any particular criteria being used — no special focus on architecture, atmosphere, location or history, just a jumbled up mix of each randomly justifying each selection. Notably, nine of the ten stadiums are in Europe, and only one has been built since the 1970s (though most have obviously been renovated or almost entirely rebuilt since their original openings).

1. Signal Iduna Park (formerly Westfalenstadion), Borussia Dortmund, Germany
Opened 1974
“Two huge end terraces (and they are terraces, with the use of safe standing) that fling noise down at the playing area with deafening intensity.” Good to see it recognised by Evans that safe terracing is the way to go in terms of ensuring our corporate arenas can still have atmosphere, and no surprise a Bundesliga stadium tops the list.

Westfalenstadion

Photo credit: H.Haupt on Flickr

2. San Siro, Internazionale and AC Milan, Italy
Opened 1926
“Lit up, it looks like a spaceship set down in suburban Milan. It could take on the Death Star and win, it’s that impressive.” Difficult to argue with this choice, though the stadium is in need of further renovation according to many visitors.

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3. Anfield, Liverpool, England
Opened 1884

“Come those spring nights, the Kop gets a surge of energy and sound pounds down onto the pitch, crushing the weak-willed (Chelsea, Real Madrid, Juventus), recreating Shankly’s “Bastion of Invincibility.”” It doesn’t get much more obvious than Anfield for a British newspaper’s list of top stadia — or more cliched descriptively.

Anfield

4. BJK İnönü Stadium, Beşiktaş, Turkey
Opened: 1947
“If they get bored, the fans behind one end can look across the Bosphorus to Asia. But their boys don’t get bored, to judge from the row they kick up. Brilliant atmosphere and a setting that’s unbeatable.” Once the home to Galatasaray S.K. and Fenerbahçe S.K as well as Beşiktaş, it’s Pele’s favourite stadium. But it’s about to change substantially, with work set to begin after this season on a new stadium at the same location.

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Photo credit: Kartal Bafiler on Flickr

5. Allianz Arena
Opened: 2005

If you have to build a new stadium, this is the way to do it. The architects who created the home of Bayern and 1860 Munich managed to equal the comfort level of the Emirates but also built in some atmosphere.” The only stadium built since the 1970s in the list, we featured the Allianz Arena here just recently — and I still wonder a little about the coldness of the design inside, despite the warmth of the colour-changing facade.

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Photo credit: MrTopf on Flickr

6. Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Opened 1947
“The Nou Camp’s evil twin. Real Madrid’s palatial home does everything better than its Catalan counterpart except, perhaps, big-game atmosphere. But it’s a close-run thing. Effortlessly stylish, the place has the easy charm of a brilliantly successful tycoon whose career has been underpinned by a ruthless streak. Franco would feel right at home.” A pretty clumsy way to end a compliment there.

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Photo credit: Jeroen! on Flickr

7. La Bombonera, Boca Juniors, Argentina
Opened 1940

“There can be no such thing as health and safety inspectors in Argentina: if there were, Boca Juniors’ ground would be closed in a heartbeat. Three sides of the stadium are traditional sloping seating areas but the fourth, a vertical stand, makes the Bombonera a design classic.” The Chocolate Box is the obvious choice as the sole non-European selection — an obvious deficiency in this list.

La Bombonera

Photo credit: #Hernan# on Flickr

8. Stadionul Dinamo, Dinamo Bucharest, Romania
Opened 1952
“A running track is normally enough to destroy a stadium’s credibility. However, Dynamo Bucharest’s ground is a masterpiece of Cold War chic. You are greeted by Stalinist statues before arriving at a sunken bowl. A wide staircase behind the goal takes you pitchside — you can imagine a baby’s pram rattling down the stairs — and the closest thing to executive boxes are the balconies of neighbouring tower blocks.” A curious choice in an attempt to give a nod to Eastern Europe perhaps, it’s hard to see what could give it a nod above the Nou Camp besides “Cold War chic” — I’m sure somewhere, Nicolae Ceauşescu is chuffed.

stadionul dinamo

Photo credit: Molkover on Flickr

9. Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain
Opened 1957

“Depending on the match, this place could easily end up on the list of worst stadiums. When it’s dull, it’s deathly. But on nights when Barça fans are hurling pigs’ heads at Luis Figo, it’s electric. The Cathedral of Catalan identity — even if the locals queue up to sell their tickets to tourists. . .It’s a shame the Champions League has made visits to places like this commonplace.” It’s hard to imagine Camp Nou appearing on the list of the worst anything, but the jaded Mr. Evans has apparently been there too many times — such a pity for him!

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Photo credit: Missha on Flickr

10, Craven Cottage, Fulham, England
Opened 1896
“In the era of identikit bowls, the ramshackle little ground on the banks of the Thames is like a throwback to a different age. It’s a genteel place, but it feels right.” And the final choice takes us back to the nineteenth century, which is not a bad way to end such a list.

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Photo credit: nicksarebi on Flickr

What are your thoughts on the list?  What stadiums has Evans missed that simply had to be on this list?


New from Stadium Porn: The new Juventus Arena in video and photos, opening September 8th 2011.

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.