No expense has been spared on the new $300m stadium for Russian Premier League team FC Krasnodar, which includes a unique 360-degree screen around the arena. But why won’t it host any 2018 World Cup matches? Will Mann reports.
WHEN RUSSIA HOSTED COSTA RICA last month in a football friendly, the doors opened for the first time on the extraordinarily lavish Krasnodar Stadium.
Described as “unique” by Hubert Nienhoff, a partner at Gerkan, Marg and Partners (GMP), the architect of the arena, it may well set a new benchmark in luxury stadium design.
The colonnaded external facade brings to mind a Roman amphitheatre, while the stadium bowl includes infrared heating and a first-of-its-kind panoramic screen, which wraps around the whole of the interior between the seating and roof.
This kind of luxury does not come cheaply. At over $300million, the construction cost is high for a venue seating only 34,291 and it is the most expensive, privately-funded stadium in Russia. The bill has been footed by Sergey Galitsky, the billionaire president of FC Krasnodar.
The 49-year-old Galitsky is the founder and CEO of Russia’s largest supermarket chain, Magnit, and has an estimated net worth of $6.6bn. His team were promoted to the Russian Premier League for the first time in 2011 and shared the ground of FC Kuban Krasnodar, historically the city’s leading club. At this point, Galitsky decided FC Krasnodar should have a stadium of their own – and a spectacular one at that.
“We want spectators to have high expectations when they see the stadium from a distance and then be bowled over emotionally when they come inside,” he says. “The changing rooms, the medical facilities for players to recuperate and the areas provided for the fans should all meet the proper standards, in my opinion.”
The stadium has been built to Fifa and Uefa Category Four standard – the highest rank possible – but surprisingly it will not host any matches in Russia’s 2018 Fifa World Cup, although it is likely to be a training base. The tournament organisers had already decided there would only be one venue per Russian region and Sochi’s 47,000-seater Fisht Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 2014 winter Olympics, will be the Krasnodar region’s World Cup venue.
This did not stop Galitsky’s grand plan, which has been dubbed the ‘Russian coliseum’. The billionaire appointed stadium specialist GMP as the architect to bring his vision to life. The Hamburg practice’s previous work includes venues at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the 2012 Euros, notably the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, and the Arena de Amazônia in Manaus, Brazil.
GMP partner Nienhoff says: “At Krasnodar we had the good fortune of being able to work with a forward-looking client, with whom we shared the common goal of creating a unique football venue. The stadium is the result of a trusting dialogue throughout the entire design and construction period. We travelled to Italy together to inspect the travertine for the facade and to Spain to select the seats, so we could achieve the best quality for all elements of the stadium. What we would have liked many times on other projects was possible here.”
From the outside, the architecture of the stadium has obvious classical influences.
“The façade’s structure uses fluted pilasters made from off-white Roman travertine and the stadium’s exterior unmistakably refers to the archetype of all modern stadiums, the ancient amphitheatre,” explains Nienhoff.
FC Krasnodar's new stadium has a 360° screen inside the ground. pic.twitter.com/XABTFZJUFC
— Fans Of Sport (@FansOfSport) October 12, 2016
In contrast to the solid stone of the facade, the roof above the stands is a lightweight cable-net structure, 42.8 metres above ground level at its highest point. It uses a double-ply membrane material made from PTFE-coated glass fabric and can accommodate the extreme fluctuations in temperature throughout the year. It allows daylight in, but also provides shading in summer and incorporates infrared heaters to keep spectators warm during the winter. Floodlights have been integrated into the roof structure.
The top of the two-tier seating bowl follows a curving contour, dropping down in the corners, in similar fashion to the Cape Town Stadium, designed by GMP for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. “The difference there is that the roof follows the curve of the seating, whereas in Krasnodar the roof is horizontal; the space in between is occupied by the panoramic screen,” explains Nienhoff.
Uefa Category Four stadiums require a minimum of 500 VIP seats. At the new Krasnodar Stadium there is room for 3,197 VIPs in the seating bowl and the sky boxes, which overlook the playing area. The football pitch has a playing area of 105m by 68m – meeting Uefa’s minimum Category Four requirement – and has undersoil heating, forced aeration and artificial lawn lighting.
Modern and minimalist
Beneath the stands the infrastructure is no less plush. Designed by Moscow-based architect Maxim Rymar, the stadium interior includes an entrance hall, café, club shop, museum, nightclub, banquet rooms, conference room, press centre and offices for FC Krasnodar and the stadium administration staff. Football facilities include changing rooms, training areas, medical facilities and a spa with a pool, steam room and cryo sauna.
The geometric shapes and colour scheme work in tandem with the modern technological materials
The whole interior is modern and minimalist, with finishes in travertine – echoing the exterior facade – and acrylic stone, plus details such as slatted wooden panels and polished metal ceilings.
“The crisp design chimes with the monumental architecture of the stadium,” says Rymar. “The geometric shapes and colour scheme work in tandem with the modern technological materials.”
Outside, there is a parking area for 1,807 cars, in addition to a parking lot beneath the stadium. Still to be completed is a 21-hectare park around the venue, which Nienhoff says will provide an important link between the stadium and the city.
“Football stadiums should be places where people experience special moments and which make a respectful contribution to the city and its culture,” he says. “We want to create stadiums that are a living component of a city. The whole area, with the stadium acting as a lighthouse, radiates outwards into its surroundings.
“The stadium sits on a podium and is located directly next to the club’s football academy. To complete the project, we are currently developing the surroundings of the arena as a sports park, which provides the natural environment for the stadium.”
Construction work on the stadium was completed last September by contractor Esta in time for the opening match between Russia and Costa Rica on October 9. FC Krasnodar played their first game at the venue against Schalke 04 in the Europa League 11 days later in front of a sellout crowd.
A WORLD FIRST – KRASNODAR STADIUM’S PANORAMIC SCREEN
While the design of the new Krasnodar Stadium should rightly draw plaudits for its neo-classical exterior and high-specification finishes, its most eye-catching feature is undoubtedly the panoramic LED screen – a globally unique feature.
The whole display has a contiguous surface of 4,700 square metres. “By comparison, conventional corner displays, which we have designed into older stadiums, measure about 15m by 9m,” says GMP partner Hubert Nienhoff.
Supplied by Chinese company Unilumin, the wraparound screen is made from the manufacturer’s Ustorm outdoor panels, with 16mm pixel pitch and 8,000 nits brightness, using bespoke cabinets and modules due to the curving shape of the stadium.
The 360-degree screen takes up the space between the roof and the top tier of the seating bowl. Its sweeping, wave-like shape is formed by the curved contour of the seating, which reaches its maximum height in the middle of the stands and tapers down into the corners.
“The screen serves as an interface and contrast between the archetypal seating bowl and the lightweight roof,” adds Nienhoff. “The media technology also helps generate the dense atmosphere of a football arena.”
The screen is operated from a control room and so far has been used for displays which make the most of its wraparound design, including animation of a jet fighter and a ‘football fireball’ shooting around the stadium circumference. At night, when the whole screen is lit up, it bathes the arena in light and creates a glow in the sky above.
Krasnodar’s screen won’t be unique for long, though. Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, due for completion in 2017, will feature a wraparound LED display beneath its retractable roof.