A New Generation of Football Stadiums – Part II

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The arenas of tomorrow are here.

It’s their physical core, a place that supporters are emotionally attached to. That means that switching stadiums is no ordinary process – it deeply influences the club’s financial situation, their long-term direction and their connection with the fans.

On last weeks’ article, we dipped into the wonderful transitions that football flows through and the necessary evolutions that clubs must undergo in order to keep ‘riding the wave’. That includes infrastructure – stadiums, youth team complex, commercial establishments for ancillary revenue and many others. Today, we switch tendencies for upcoming challenges and add 5 new wonderful arenas to the lot we previously put together.

The economic relevance of projects with these astounding dimensions is undeniable: they are major sources of consumption and employment – both temporary (e.g. construction site) and permanent (e.g. maintenance) – and can actually shape the economic personality of the areas they’re built in. They require coordination and the best use of knowledge in different areas, architecture, engineering, safety regulations, managements and so many more. It has been said over and over: it’s not as light a matter as deciding which socks to wear. The biggest challenges include:

  1. Fan engagement: A loyal supporter is a profitable one: they will regularly go to the stadium and defend their colours, maybe even buy themselves season tickets, and they probably collect their team’s complete merchandise set, shirt, scarf, everything. But in order to do so, they need to feel engaged – connected with the club’s philosophy and strategy, their roster and the way it is managed, the outlook that is developed by the communication department and many other factors. With the aid of new-age data analytics and marketing tools, clubs are more informed than ever on their fans’ tastes and preferences;
  2. Safety: Safety is an abstract concept, meaning it cannot be physically touched, but that does not mean it’s not valuable. In fact, just like every single human being, football fans are generally not too fond of paying a substantial amount of money for a big game ticket, push through stationary traffic or clogged public transportation and, in the midst of it all, be subject to harm if they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. Safety issues are everyone’s concern, and therefore, it should gather everyone’s efforts and attention (the fans themselves, clubs and the government/public entities);
  3. Profitability after big events: This one applies specifically to stadiums that were purposely built to host major competitions, like the FIFA World Cup. What is the future of such massive sports complexes after those big bucks, short-period events? Well, when it comes to pure numbers, holding such a football festival can bring revenue streams that exceed the overall investment, so huge buildings are brought up and then, after the events, they end up…laying there, just laying there, with no particular use. There are several examples of this short-term vision, which is something that needs to be fought against.

 

A lot more than 5 examples could have been given (the 2018 World Cup alone imposed several renovations and new constructions in Russia), but without any specific criteria other than the recent date construction (12 years or less), here goes our list of 5 new exciting football sanctuaries:

  1. Arena do Grêmio (55,662): This beautiful ground is home of one of the oldest and biggest clubs in Brazil, Grêmio. It was named Stadium of the Year when construction works were finalised (2012) – strangely enough though, it wasn’t one of the main stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s a token of modern tendencies, proving that Latin America is also knee-deep in this new era;
  2. Krestovsky Stadium (67,000): It hosted several matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederation and will host several more in the upcoming World Cup. There were a few rumours surrounding its development, including abusive labor practices and over-budgeted, disproportionate construction costs. Controversies aside, it will likely have permanent use as Zenit Arena after the great event;
  3. Beijing National Stadium (80,000): Set in the middle of a beautiful scenery in the Chinese capital city, this arena is absolutely unique in its architectural style and surroundings. However, with the uncertainty regarding its regular usage (it hasn’t hosted too many football matches since the inauguration), many other large events are being booked there, such as the 2022 Winter Olympics;
  4. Aviva Stadium (51,700): Dublin has a new landmark. Finished in 2010, the Aviva Stadium replaced the old Lansdowne Road, and the grass field will need regular changes between the rugby and football setups. Perhaps the rising of brand new infrastructure will prompt the Irish football evolution – as of today, no club has been able to make that extra step and build international relevance;
  5. Wembley Stadium (90,000): The true crib of the game deserved such greatness. Wembley is the largest sports arena in the United Kingdom and the second largest in Europa (regarding seated capacity), topped only by Barcelona’s Camp Nou. The beautiful sky-gazing arch that goes over the entire structure is a fair way to apologise for the demolition of the iconic twin towers that flourished the old ground.

Note: All the displayed seating capacities refer to association football.

When we see these incredible projects, we see great sums of money associated with them – but most importantly, we should see…people. Families. Men, women and children that pursue their right to harmless, peaceful entertainment. All of these stadiums are great statements that need to be justified – only time will tell if we are witnessing solid, long lasting investments, or just megalomaniac whims whose harmful secondary effects will be promptly judged.

You can read the first part here.

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