Estadio BBVA Bancomer: A New Future for the Latin American Soccer Experience
Football (futbol in Hispanic countries or soccer in the United States) is one of the world’s universal languages. While there are common technologies, common products and common foods that seem to transcend borders, there aren’t many sports that do the same from nation to nation, continent to continent.
Football is the one exception. With the growth of Major League Soccer in the United States and the continued prominence of leagues in Europe and the rest of America, all eyes seem to be on the sport’s future.
The World Cup, savvy owners and the media have done wonders to build the sport’s global profile, but while the sport itself is global, fan experience from region to region varies based on myriad of issues.
In spite of its universal adaptation, there are significant differences in the stadiums that support football across the globe and the experiences that fans have come to expect. In just two short weeks, Estadio BBVA Bancomer will open in Monterrey, Mexico as a game-changing facility – and will introduce an entirely new standard for the fan experience in Latin America.
For me, the design of Estadio BBVA Bancomer is both a personal and professional story. I grew up in Mexico, went to school in Monterrey and have been a fan of Rayados for as long as I can remember.
When I moved to Kansas City to work for Populous in 1997, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d later be helping reshape the soccer experience in a city that has been so important to me. As it nears completion, to say that the stadium will exceed expectations is an understatement.
I’m confident the vision for the stadium will forever change what Latin American soccer fans expect in a stadium. Through creative urban planning, an understanding of global trends in the fan experience and a progressive, sophisticated vision for the sport’s future in the region, Estadio BBVA Bancomer has the potential to transform an entire region’s expectations.
The stadium’s impact can only be understood by looking at the history of stadia in Mexico’s Liga MX and the culture of Monterrey. Monterrey is an intensely cosmopolitan city, with a rich history and very vibrant culture. In some ways, there are commonalities between the culture in many of the United States’ big metro areas and the culture in Monterrey; much like New York or Chicago, it’s a developed city and the industrial and business center for the country.
That being said, the stadium experience in Monterrey – and throughout Mexico – is profoundly lacking. While the city itself has always been full of passionate fans, the experience was quite minimal. For many decades, Liga MX’s teams have played in dated facilities with antiquated amenities and offerings.
Club Monterey currently plays in Estadio Tecnologico, built in 1950 with track and field, soccer and American football capabilities. While many in the US and Europe are accustomed to hospitality-driven experiences with a variety of seating options and the latest amenities and technology, similar experiences haven’t integrated into the existing stadiums in the region.
It’s a bit of an interesting challenge, a city so progressive in many respects but whose sport hospitality experiences were in desperate need of an upgrade. When we started work with C.F. Monterrey more than seven years ago, we knew it would be a groundbreaking effort with a game-changing result. And that’s exactly what it’s become.
Our projects are always designed to be the lifeblood of communities… shaping cities through auxiliary developments and challenging the status quo with innovations; yet rarely do we get the opportunity to design a stadium that will forever shift the way an entire region enjoys a sport.
In Monterrey, we were able to do that thanks to progressive owners who understood the importance of reimagining three components:
The Fan Experience
The level of comfort for fans and athletes will be unparalleled in Estadio BBVA Bancomer. All seats will have excellent views to the field. The stadium was designed to be friendly and welcoming for all members of society: children, women, elderly, families, persons with disabilities, the young and the old.
The objective was to create a new experience for the spectators with the greatest safety and wellbeing. The new stadium will bring fans closer to the pitch than in their current stadium: from 27 meters to 9 meters in the side lines.
The proportion of restrooms and point of sales per spectators is in alignment with 5th generation stadiums (most advanced in the world) – a level of service that is currently nonexistent in Mexico. The stadium has more than 800 high definition TVs throughout the concourses for continued connection with the action.
Estadio BBVA Bancomer in Monterrey is part of the new generation of stadia in Latin America that is redefining the fan experience. Populous has worked on several projects in Latin America, including Arena das Dunas, which hosted a number of matches during the Brazil 2014 World Cup, Estadio Omnilife, home of Chivas de Guadalajara, and current work on the new ballpark for Los Diablos Rojos del Mexico in Mexico City.
Premium Seating and Amenities
Traditionally, the premium experience in Latin America has been rather scarce – with very limited offerings, outdated options and a much different sales structure than we see elsewhere, which results in these spaces being sold for life. In Monterrey, Estadio BBVA Bancomer will have more premium seating options – including 324 suites – more than any other soccer stadium in the world.
In conjunction with CSL, we’ve worked to change the way we think about effectively marketing premium products in Mexico. The suites were sold for 15-year terms, unheard of in the region, and will feature elegant, sophisticated and simple amenities that integrate American hospitality trends for the premium experience into the space.
4,500 club seats will round out the premium offerings, with two central club spaces that will service all fans. The clubs are designed to facilitate this hospitality-driven experience with kid’s zone; exterior terraces, gourmet menu, international drink bars, operable glass walls, strategic views to players’ field tunnel access and expedite in seat service among others.
The south side is home to a restaurant and bar for 168 spectators. This space will be operated 6 days per week. Its operable glass walls will create a unique connection to the match and superior ambience in the interior.
The Importance of Culture to Design
The priority for Club Monterey was to design a stadium for the fans and the people of Monterrey. Their loyalty and passion is special – these are the type of fans that follow their club to Japan and Morocco for the World Club tournaments and all over the world. The stadium was designed with a heart and the heart is the “Rayados” and the citizens of Monterrey.
The design was inspired by the aspects of Monterrey that have made it such a unique city. Located in the adjacencies of the restored Parque la Pastora, an emerging recreational destination in downtown, the site allows for views of the Cerro de la Silla Mountain.
Monterrey has long been a major steel manufacturer and a city of “the brewery”, some of the city’s most interesting legacies. The design honors this with materials selected that highlight this history – like an aluminum façade – and crescent shaped openings that pays tribute to beer stills and steel mills.
These details are important because stadiums in the region haven’t traditionally been designed with such a process. They’ve been designed for pure functionality – many of them resembling the multi-purpose stadiums of years gone by.
These simple gestures help tell a larger story about Monterrey, speaking to the tremendous history and the promising future for the city, and creating a more authentic place to watch a game.
Ultimately it is the people, the fans who transform the stadium into a marvelous, incredible place and create unforgettable memories; these are the kind of experiences that I want the fans and players to embrace.
Estadio BBVA Bancomer is a hybrid – combining history and innovation in a design that won’t just set a standard in Mexico and Latin America, but will turn heads across the globe. When it opens on August 2nd, it will be a true celebration for the city of Monterrey and C.F. Monterrey as they make an important statement about the future of soccer in Latin America and their commitment to ushering in the next-generation experience.