Elisha Chauhan looks at 10 innovations that are quickly becoming must-have features for new-build sports stadia.
1 Climate Control
A lot has been talked about climate control in stadia in the past four years following FIFA’s award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar (see pages 26-27), but controlling adverse hot or cold temperatures is a developing feature for sports stadia all over the world, not just in the Middle East.
Populous senior principal Chris Lee, for example, told SportBusiness International about award-winning work with Mexican football club CF Monterrey’s new stadium, which makes ice overnight – with off-peak electricity – which is then used to cool the venue on event days instead of air-conditioning. Air flow via ‘gills’ in the facade also ventilates Monterrey’s stadium.
2 Google Glass
At the start of this year, National Basketball Association franchise the Sacramento Kings became the first professional sports team to use the digital headgear after partnering with Silicon Valley software company CrowdOptic. The KingsGoGlass campaign saw fans inside and outside of the venue access courtside views courtesy of reporters, dancers and the team mascot wearing the device.
“Google Glass (pictured) has begun to impact sports that are statistics-driven like baseball and cricket,” says Lee. “We’re also doing a lot of work at the moment with Under Armour and Nike looking at intelligent uniforms, where the players are all wired up so that fans can view the action from their point of view, check their heart rate, GPRS tracking and so on.”
3 Artificial Pitches
“It will be interesting in the future if more stadia have artificial pitches, because that opens up a lot of possibilities. For instance, a roof usually has to be designed to balance letting enough sunlight in to nurture natural grass and covering spectators,” AECOM principal architect J Parrish told SportBusiness International.
“My suspicion is that quite a lot of stadia will move towards including artificial pitches if the technology improves enough to not have an adverse effect on the game. The pitch will also be available to the general public – and that’s the essence of stadia, it should be open to all and not just elite sports.”
4 Dynamic Seating
Dynamic seats are fixed seats in a stadium that can move either automatically to reflect action on the pitch or at predetermined intervals.
Pattern Architects co-founder and director Dipesh Patel believes that dynamic seating could give sports fans the option of having a “rollercoaster ride-style” experience as their seats move or vibrate, for example, when a player is tackled – similar to rumble seats or simulators used when playing arcade video games.
The use of renewable energy in-stadia was a focal point of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup bid, while the Singapore Sports Hub has installed around 7,000-square-metres of solar panels on its national stadium that collect as much energy as is needed for cooling the venue throughout the year, according to Parrish. Expect environmentally-friendly and money-saving design elements to become the standard rather than the exception soon.
6 Social areas
Party decks – which range from free-standing areas to al fresco bars – are an innovative take on executive hospitality. The National Football League (NFL)’s Green Bay Packers and Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox both have these areas integrated into their stands. The White Sox’s area – sponsored by beer Miller Lite – seats up to 56 people; fans also have the opportunity to purchase an all-inclusive food and beverage packages from $110.
“We’re pushing party decks a lot with our clients, because clubs will need them to attract the younger generations, especially in all-day sports like cricket and athletics,” says Patel.
7 LED Facades
LED lighting is now commonplace in new stadia, from giant screens to entire exteriors displaying interactive images and lightshows. Parrish’s work with the Allianz Arena, home of German football’s Bayern Munich, was complemented by Philips Lighting’s installation of energy-efficient LEDs on the stadia’s 29,000-square-metre outer shell, the largest of its kind in the world. Other examples include the Peru National Stadium, which has a light sequence reflecting the moods – such as celebratory or disappointment – on its exterior.
Wi-Fi is now a must-have in both stadia new and old, for all fans, not just those in hospitality areas. One way in which rights-holders have capitalised on the technology is through either personalised or third-party phone apps that allow fans to purchase food, beverages or team merchandise from their seat.
The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings new $1-billion stadium, due to open in 2016, is reminiscent of a greenhouse with its overwhelming use of glass. Despite vocal opposition from activists that believe glass is a potential danger to birds, the Vikings – which were this year awarded the rights to host the 2018 Super Bowl – is installing five giant pivoting glass doors on its west side topped by a fixed clear plastic roof.
10 Non-matchday facilities
When spending millions on a sports stadium, a rights-holder inevitably wants to make maximum use of the facility to help balance the books.
In addition to offering conference rooms and stadium tours, some teams have turned to hiring out the stadia’s pitch during the off-season and, in the case of Barcelona, constructing a summer restaurant and bar lounge that is integrated into its first tier and overlooks the pitch.
“As the world craves more excitement, I think stadia will more and more include extreme sports facilities such as bungee-style swings on the pitch during the off-season,” adds Parrish.
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