Advantages of an Inner City Stadium

I was in that crowd at Eden Park in Auckland a couple of weeks ago, one of what seemed like only a handful of Aussies in my green and gold in a sea of All Black jerseys, jackets, hats and scarves, cheering on as their team took care of the Wallabies. In spite of the result, the festival atmosphere created as everyone spills out into the city after such a momentous clash like the Bledisloe Cup, is a wonderful thing. The chatter has now moved to the UK and the Rugby World Cup and a number of the early matches will be held at Millennium Stadium. It will be the same there, especially because the stadium is right in the heart of the city of Cardiff. The intensity of the crowd in the pubs, bars and restaurants of the inner city, both during the buildup in the days beforehand, and after the matches, will be magic.

As designers we are very aware that people can watch the game quite comfortably at home, so a day out at the stadium has to provide something that people can’t get sitting in their living rooms. What the live game can offer is the entire game day experience and proximity to the centre of the city and all it has to offer is hugely important to the ritual-like experience of either a sporting game or an entertainment event. This actually begins the moment fans leave home and lasts all day until they arrive back again afterwards.  The pre match build-up or late night celebrations afterwards somehow make the whole experience even more memorable    I just think of the thousands of fans singing and reveling in the streets after an Arsenal home game, so much the better because the stadium is in the city. A central venue also makes it so much easier to organize events in the days leading up to the actual game, with the concentration of facilities and infrastructure.

The ease of getting to the event also contributes a great deal to a good day out. In fact reports show if it’s hard to get to the game, people are less likely to go. Again the inner city is so often the place best equipped to handle public transport demands of a major event. A good public transport system that allows people to get to the game comfortably, without the hassle of driving for miles is a huge advantage. In many cases, stadium development can also lead to the improvement of these existing facilities thus benefitting the community at large. This happened at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, where major transport improvements around the redeveloped stadium included the creation of pedestrian walkways across the train tracks and a busy main road. This also meant people can be easily directed into the lively Caxton Street precinct nearby, with its bars and nightclubs and restaurants, creating an exciting meeting place both before and after a game.

A commute to the stadium almost certainly includes a certain amount of walking, and if spectators are directed properly, it provides another opportunity to spend along the way – another advantage if the stadium’s in the inner city, because that retail infrastructure is already in place.

The commitment to have a Stadium as part of a redevelopment is often critical to developers, particularly in the city.  The Victorian Government recognized this when it first started out with Etihad stadium in the 1990’s and so did the developers Advance Realty Group in New York when the New York Red Bulls moved into a new 25,000 seat soccer stadium in New Jersey. The developers worked in conjunction with the stadium to develop the 135 acres of vacant land around the stadium, and regarded the stadium as an essential draw for retail and hotel tenants.

So it’s the overall experience that people are after today, a reason to get up from their comfortable couches and take the trouble to go see a match in real life. While activities, events and easy commuting are vital factors to people’s enjoyment, the most fundamental aspect that brings a game to life is the atmosphere generated inside the venue itself, and that is related to the stadium design. Creating a relationship between the spectator and the event is one of the most important ways we, at Populous believe, achieves the right atmosphere for every stadium design. Designs such as Suncorp Stadium and Eden Park make it almost impossible not to feel intimately involved with what is happening on the pitch. Throw in the singing at Millennium Stadium and there will be goose bumps alright. I can’t wait.

I just hope the Wallabies win.

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