The Grand Stade de Lyon, Olympic Lyon's new multi-purpose stadium built in 2016.

Matt Cutler looks at four innovative sports venues opening this year. What are their unique features and how will they create revenue-generation opportunities for their owners whilst taking the live fan experience to a new level?


US Bank Stadium 

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
  • Owner: Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (State of Minnesota)
  • Architect: HKS Architects Scheduled
  • Opening: Summer (TBC)
  • Capacity: 65,400 (expandable to 73,000)
  • Tenants: Minnesota Vikings (American football)

Unique Selling Point(s): Michele Kelm-Helgen, chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, identifies two distinguishing features: a design that gives fans the feeling of being outside when they are inside and a huge expanse of parkland around the stadium. “Sixty per cent of our roof will be made from ETFE, a transparent plastic polymer material that’s been used extensively in Europe and Asia-Pacific, but not North America, so it will have a distinguishable feel,” she told SportBusiness International. “The front of the stadium is a glass wall; it’s 500 feet tall and 300 feet across, and has five of the largest hydraulic pivot-opening doors in the US. Given Minnesota’s climate [of hot summers and cold winters] these will give the building a feeling of an outdoor, climate-controlled facility. Adjacent and joined to the stadium will about 11 acres of parkland. For events held at the multi-purpose stadium, attendees will have an outdoor space to congregate and relax – an important factor for events like the Super Bowl in 2018.”

Revenue-Generation Features: U.S. Bank Stadium is owned and operated by the state of Minnesota, and has been designed to maximise revenue by hosting events 360 days of the year. “One of the state’s goals was for the stadium to accommodate indoor high-school and college baseball games in the winter, so that the teams did not have to travel to find warmer climates to play in their early season,” Kelm-Helgen added. “On one side, 34 rows of seating can be retracted, giving us one of the largest floor areas of any stadium in the world, allowing the stadium to accommodate baseball and other events, including floor shows that need a significant amount of seating and floor space.”

Significance for Region: One of the state’s main goals was to attract private investment to the neighbourhood of Downtown East. According to Kelm-Helgen, the impact is already being felt. “There is construction underway already which represents $1.1bn (€1bn) of private economic investment within two blocks of the stadium,” she added. “[Financial services giant] Wells Fargo is, for example, building two high-rise office blocks and hundreds of apartments are being built around the stadium.”

Vodafone Arena

  • Location: Istanbul, Marmara, Turkey
  • Owner: Besiktas J.K.
  • Architect: DB Architects
  • Scheduled Opening: March
  • Capacity: 41,903
  • Tenants: Besiktas J.K. (Football)

Unique Selling Point(s): According to Besiktas, the venue will be Turkey’s first ‘intelligent’ stadium – and it will certainly be one of the most modern in Europe from a technology perspective. The 15-year, $145m sponsorship deal signed between Besiktas and Vodafone in August 2013 not only gave the mobile phone giant the naming rights for the stadium, but also ensured that the stadium would be equipped with the latest high-speed Wi-Fi technology, which is being installed in partnership with technology giant Cisco. In addition to Wi-Fi, the Vodafone Arena will boast HD monitors and interactive screens showing content including supporter interviews, statistics and promotions; according to Besiktas, this will give fans a 21st century immersive live sports experience.

Revenue-Generation Features: The seafront plot on which the Vodafone Arena is being built is relatively small, meaning Besiktas’ new home does not boast the same capacity of its rivals Galatasaray (52,652) or Fenerbahçe (50,509). A huge amount of thought has therefore been focused on corporate facilities. The Vodafone Arena will have 144 executive suites and the ‘1903 Lounge’ will entertain 1,903 corporate ticket-holders. It will also have 2,123 square metres of restaurants, 2,520 square metres of terrace restaurants and a VIP parking lot for 600 vehicles. Besiktas also intends the venue to serve as an entertainment complex for concerts and exhibitions.

Significance for Region: The Vodafone Arena could be a modern wonder in a city famed for its historical architecture. The Turkish High Council of Monumentxs demanded an ‘ancient look’ that enables it to fit into the surrounding area and DB Architects have managed to pull off the trickiest of balances, creating a futuristic-looking stadium that respects the cultural and historical significance of its location. This can be witnessed in the stadium’s coliseum design. Unlike most modern stadia – whose stands are roughly the same height – the Vodafone Arena’s stands decrease at the corners and widen at the edges to give it a waveform shape. The height of the east stand is also low in order to avoid ruining the view of the Bosphorus.

Las Vegas Area

  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
  • Owner: Las Vegas Arena Company (owned by AEG and MGM Resorts International)
  • Architect: Populous Scheduled Opening: Spring (TBC)
  • Capacity: 20,000 (fight sports and concerts), 19,000 (basketball), 17,500 (ice hockey)
  • Tenants: None (Ice hockey and basketball franchises mooted)

Unique Selling Point(s): Flexibility. The Las Vegas Arena has been designed to offer a distinctive experience to fans attending diverse events – from the world of sport and the wider entertainment industry – that you would expect to find in the City of Sin. “The arena truly embodies the spirit, drama and excitement the city exudes,” Brad Clark, a senior principal at architects Populous and designer of the Las Vegas Arena, told SportBusiness International. “It is a multi-purpose facility that was flexibly designed to host a wide variety of events and accommodate a professional sports franchise. The seating bowl boasts the highest end-stage concert capacity of comparable new facilities. Creative detailing and a higher number of variable-rise and end-zone retractable seating rows allow the stage to be pushed back, minimising seat kills. The arena’s front exterior balcony features space for 1,000 people.”

Revenue-Generation Features: For concerts – and fight sports like boxing and mixed martial arts’ Ultimate Fighting Championship – the key element of the venue’s ability to maximise revenue will be in its 20,000 capacity. However, for team sports, the venue will be an attractive proposition to sponsors. “It’s a new landmark and the expansive media façade offers vast sponsorship potential, as it is visible to a large volume of people on the [Las Vegas] Strip,” Clark added. “It also features ‘bowl tower clubs’, allowing for high-visibility sponsorship opportunities. The tower clubs are accessible to all fans and offer an elevated view in a nightclub atmosphere.”

Significance for Region: The arena reinforces Las Vegas’ reputation as the world’s entertainment capital. “The arena unites the contrasting influences of Vegas; the colour and flowing lines of the desert and the nearby Spring Mountains to the west and the pulsating Boulevard to the east,” Clark added. “It will be the largest venue for live entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip. At the heart of the Las Vegas community, the arena will help to attract a national and international audience.”

Stade Des Lumières

  • Location: Lyon, Rhône-Alpes, France
  • Owner: Olympique Lyonnais
  • Architect: Populous Scheduled
  • Opening: January
  • Capacity: 59,500
  • Tenants: Olympique Lyonnais (Football)

Unique Selling Point(s): Designers at Populous describe the Stade des Lumières (Stadium of Light) as “a marriage of nature and technology” – using the latter to create one of the most sustainable sports venues in the world. The stadium boasts significantly reduced carbon emissions compared to its rivals across Europe. A large number of photovoltaic panels – which turn solar energy into electricity – have been integrated into the roof, while the new Lyon training centre, built on the same complex as the Stade des Lumières, features natural ventilation and rain-recycling technology.

Revenue-Generation Features: The Stade des Lumières has been designed and is being marketed as one of France’s top multi-purpose venues, and significant revenues are being targeted by hosting sporting and entertainment events outside of football. Lyon wants the wider Stade des Lumières complex to be in use 365 days of the year, hosting everything from gokarting to conferences. On the pitch, meanwhile, the venue will be seen across the world when it hosts a semi-final game – and a handful of other fixtures, including Belgium v Italy – at Uefa Euro 2016, but even before then it will hold the finals of rugby union’s Challenge Cup and Champions Cup. Days after Euro 2016 finishes, it will host a concert by singer Rihanna. Lyon is also in the market for a naming rights partner that will bring in up to €10m per year for the club.

Significance for Region: Meyzieu, the area of Lyon where the Stade des Lumières has been built, is largely industrial and changing rapidly thanks to new buildings, including the new home of Lyon. The Stade des Lumières will become a new focal point for the area – particularly if Lyon hits its target by having it open on every day of the year. “A large roof partially covers the green boulevard leading to the stadium, the adjacent podium and the seating tiers…it acts like the foliage of a tree and, at night, its illuminated form… [creates] a fitting icon for the city of Lyon,” Populous said. “As well as being an architectural symbol, the stadium will provide the financial independence and security that the club set out to create.”

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