The Future of the Rugby Fan Experience

October 27, 2023

With the countdown to the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final upon us, we’re reflecting on the great homes of rugby’s past and the next wave of future rugby stadiums to come.

There’s no secret that live entertainment is about creating a unique experience for everyone.

From evoking an emotional response at the anticipation of the event, to the performance itself; the memories that come from a shared experience is what lives on in all of us.

Whether these homes be in small intimate stadiums, medium sized ones or large national stadiums, it’s the atmosphere and their flexibility to become the homes of rugby for global events like the Rugby World Cup where they create long lasting legacy for their city.

With four-decades of design experience, Populous has created iconic national rugby stadiums worldwide, including Twickenham South Stand in England, Principality Stadium in Wales, Aviva Stadium in Ireland, Suncorp Stadium in Australia and Forsyth Barr Stadium in New Zealand.

During the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the transformative design for Groupama Stadium in Lyon and Stadium de Toulouse both hosted five pool matches, epitomising Populous’ commitment to crafting an immersive fan experience across the world.

Continuing our long history with rugby union, Populous is leading the design of three new rugby venues in Hong Kong, Japan and New Zealand.

These future of rugby venues include Kai Tak Sports Park in Hong Kong, the New Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium (Tokyo, Japan) and Te Kaha Stadium, Canterbury’s Multi-Use Arena that will host international sporting matches, concerts and events including rugby.

Taking centerstage in Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Sports Park will be the Main Stadium, with a “Pearl of the Orient” façade design theme, which will accommodate 50,000 spectators. With a retractable roof, the Main Stadium will be purpose-built to host a myriad of sports events in any weather and can also be used for other activities such as concerts, exhibitions and carnivals. The new South Stand will honour the great Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tradition, with a vast activity platform set against a panoramic glass wall that provides exceptional views of the scenic harbour front. The Main Stadium’s pitch can be flexibly switched between quality natural turf for premier football or rugby events, to other surface materials for specific sports events or cultural and entertainment activities. Boasting flexible staging and seating configuration options, the Main Stadium will also be an ideal venue for a range of entertainment events and activities that cater to different crowd sizes.

Te Kaha in Christchurch is a true, multi-use arena located in the heart of the city. Te Kaha will be capable of facilitating world class sporting matches and international entertainment acts. It will also be one of only two stadia in the world with a fully enclosed roof and natural grass playing field. When finished the arena will host international acts, the All Blacks and the Crusaders matches with 30,000 seats (25,000 permanent and 5,000 temporary), a minimum of four player change rooms and food and beverage amenity for 25,000 patrons. The world-class multi-use arena is being delivered by the Kōtui consortium which was appointed in March 2021. The lead contractor, BESIX Watpac heads up the team and includes Mott MacDonald, Christchurch-based architects Warren and Mahoney along with Populous as global stadium design experts.

In Japan, Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium will be rebuilt next to the National Stadium. The new stadium contributes to the future development of rugby for Japan, and for the people of Tokyo and for those who love rugby, creating a bustling urban, sports and culture destination. The design introduces Universal Design Principles and responds to the diversifying needs for the future of the game in Japan. For this purpose, the new stadium’s design includes an all-weather international standard rugby field and a flexible seating capacity for over 15,000 for rugby competitions, increasing to over 20,000 in event mode. The new design will focus on the next generation experiencing a new place for rugby union fans to gather, interact and visit time and again.

At Populous, we know great sporting moments create unique connections between players and fans and it’s through large-scale social infrastructure where stadiums play a large part in continuing that experience.

We’re excited to deliver the next generation design of rugby stadiums with game-day fan activations, new hospitality experiences and innovative technologies for the at-home audience all sitting within integrated precincts that transform the cities and surrounding communities they serve.

  • Kai Tak Sports Park, Hong Kong
  • Te Kaha, New Zealand
  • New Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium, Japan

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