Mixed-Use Sports Stadiums: Not All Fun and Games

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Friday, February 6th, 2015
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Architects are leaning on the rise of mixed-use built environment projects to see sports stadiums utilised outside game time for activities including theatre or community events.

For cities with stadiums built specifically for one-off events such as the Olympics or the World Cup, there is an endless list of conversion opportunities. Sports stadiums and their amenities are being transformed into retail precincts, commercial workplaces, and even residential neighbourhoods. Landscape architects, too, are working their magic on stadium exteriors to create playgrounds, parkland and green space.

A 2014 study by Prasanna, P.M.C. reports that the connection between sports stadiums and society is at its strongest ever, describing it as “not only a place where just ‘sport functions’ take place (but) a major source of entertainment and social interaction.”

“The stadia all over the world has developed with the city in a way, so that even the social economic sustainability of some cities depends on their stadia,” the report reads.

Adam Williams, AECOM director of global sports, notes a rise in the construction of community and regional sporting stadiums worldwide, including spaces designed for elite level athletes. For instance, there are several “elite” stadiums being built due to FIFA awarding the World Cup to cities eight to 12 years in advance.

He said there is plenty of opportunity to design and deliver spaces which benefit both  sporting organisations and the community.

According to Williams, a stadium as an independent building is costly to build and operate.

“Many stadiums require significant subsides and investment to stay operational,” he said. “The ability to complement the stadium with additional uses, such as restaurants and retail, can extend the dwell time of spectators before and after the games, which can generate greater revenue for the operator/s.”

“The inclusion of other uses can also assist in defining the stadium as a destination for entertainment and leisure on non-event days. This can maintain activity, improve safety and drive further revenue. Essentially it is about capitalising on the stadium and maximising the investment and the experience.”

Access is key. Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station effortlessly leads passengers to the neighbouring Etihad Stadium. demonstrating the potential for stadiums to share infrastructure and assets with their cities.

“Good public transport provision is highly desirable for stadiums, and for a city,” Williams said. “The ability to incorporate the stadium into an existing transport network, or provide new stations, can also serve a far wider catchment of people and uses.”

This also aligns with the sharing of car parks with local commercial workplaces.

“Education, sports training, conference and exhibition uses can also maximise various stadium components, including the sports fields, commercial-scale kitchens and other spectators services,” Williams said.

Sports venues are valuable in that they draw people in.

“Stadia can also be a great asset to a city, bringing activity,” Williams said. “Complementing this with accommodation and additional entertainment options can create a dynamic precinct.”

Williams referred to the legacy left by London’s 2012 Olympic Park – a stadium which has become an important community asset to East London.

While the stadium itself is set to re-open next year for the Rugby World Cup, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as it’s officially known, is already operating as a multi-use venue, housing a series of parks and playgrounds, and aquatic, hockey and tennis facilities.

Furthermore, 7,000 residential homes have been approved in the area, with residents expected to move in by the middle of next year.

East Wick sits across from the original Olympic media centre, it's set to house 1,200 to 1,500 homes

East Wick sits across from the original Olympic media centre and is set to house 1,200 to 1,500 homes

There is even a commercial component, with two commercial buildings that will house 6,000 employees set to be completed by spring, 2018.

Residential and industrial uses remain among the largest opportunities for these spaces not commonly incorporated.

“With residential…people often don’t want to live adjacent to stadiums due to potential noise issues etc,” Williams said. “However, there are some examples where people enjoy living within a sports precinct, especially if they have a particular association with a team.”

In Rio, the historic Maracana stadium was recently renovated for the FIFA World Cup and is being used during the 2016 Olympic Games to host ceremonies and rugby.

“Post-Games it will continue as a soccer stadium with an occasional large concert,” Williams said.

The renovation saw Maracana fitted out with bars, restaurants and retail, along with a roof to cover the public area.

There are, of course, many sports stadiums that are sticking to their industry, but serving as multi-purpose venues by catering for an array of sports.

The majority of stadiums already accommodate a number of sports, depending on the pitch design, Williams said. In many, for instance, AFL, cricket and soccer and rugby and American football are all complementary.

“A challenge is often accommodating track and field requirements within a stadium that is intended to be used for other field sports without compromising the spectator experience (because the spectator is further away from the pitch,)” Williams said. “However, some stadiums are including flexible seating on the periphery of the pitch that can be adjusted depending on the sport or event.”

The future of stadium design may well include moving venues where the structures themselves will be flexible.

“This may include the ability to transform corporate boxes into hotel rooms on non-game days, and concourse areas and seating under crofts into conference and exhibition spaces,” said Williams.

He cited AECOM’s Sacramento Kings Arena Design, which includes a wall that opens up to transform a fully enclosed arena into an amphitheatre.

Plans for multi-purpose Sacramento Kings Arena to reactivate the area

Plans for multi-purpose Sacramento Kings Arena to reactivate the area

The arena will also boast a 16-storey tower that will be used for retail and a hotel featuring approximately 250 hotel rooms.

“We’re aiming for a facility that celebrates the city, strengthens the downtown community, supports the team’s success and offers an unmatched fan experience,” said Jon Niemuth, AECOM director of sports for the Americas at the time of the announcement.

Whether they’re hosting sport enthusiasts or entertaining the community, there is no doubt sport stadiums are breathing life back into cities.

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