Each new year seems to bring a slew of new stadiums opening around the world, the result of long, winding journeys, with lots of money and expectations invested in their success. Some promise to be spectacular, others look, well, less so… But in 2015 we are treated to four new, architecturally significant venues opening in Europe and North America that continue to push the envelope of what sport facilities at their best can be.
If the Grande Stade Bordeaux was the only major stadium opening in 2015 it would still make it a landmark year for new stadiums. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron (H&dM), designers of the landmark Allianz Arena in Munich and the Beijing Olympic Stadiums, are back with an equally ethereal project.
The new home of Ligue 1 side Girdins de Bordeaux football club and an official stadium of Euro 2016, the Grande Stade is an homage to the essential components of stadium typology: bleachers, roof, structure, concourse. Unlike their design for the Allianz Arena, where the roof, structure and enclosure seamlessly blend together, with the Grande Stade H&dM create a soaring, flat roof held up by hundreds of slender vertical columns. The cantilevered roof covers fans inside the stadium, while the underside of the bleachers gracefully frames the grand entry steps outside, and a ribbon containing food stalls and restrooms wraps in and out of the columns at the main concourse level. While the requirements of modern stadia have become very complicated, the Grande Stade Bordeaux adeptly manages the programmatic and structural complexities with an inspiring clarity, simplicity and lightness of touch.
Located in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, the Estadio de Futbol Monterrey will be the new home of the Monterrey ‘Rayados’ Football Club. Designed by Populous and VFO Arquitectos, the amorphous, metal-clad structure steps down to the east to reveal views of the nearby Cerro de la Silla mountain.
The stadium’s location within the Zoologico la Pastora park led to criticism from local groups that a 50,000-seat stadium and associated parking infrastructure would damage the park’s flora and fauna. As a result, although the stadium project went ahead, some clever, innovative features were added, such as a permeable parking lot and exterior ‘gills’ to naturally ventilate the interior. Let’s hope the new building brings more locals out to the park and enhances its natural surrounding rather than hurts it. The audacity of hope.
Avaya Stadium is the smallest of our top-4 new stadiums, but don’t let the low seating capacity fool you – this is one dynamic ballpark that will certainly be buzzing with atmosphere come MLS’ opening day in March. The new home of Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes features a unique three-sided, rectangular seating bowl that puts fans directly on top of the playing surface. An innovative, single level of VIP club seating directly at field level takes care of people wanting to drink and socialize at already obstructed viewing angles. The true fans are slightly raised, optimizing sightlines yet still very close to the action; the seating layout is kind of like a typical modern arena but with the lower bowl simply removed.
Terraced standing areas – something many English fans would like to see their clubs return to – line the northern side of the pitch, with a large open-air barbecue area and scoreboard sitting beyond. This appropriately-sized venue, with a diverse array of seating and accommodation options, continues MLS’ trend toward well-sized, fan-friendly stadiums for the rapidly developing American soccer league.
4. New Quebec City Amphitheater. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Architect: ABCP Architecture & Populous
Capacity: 18,482 (Hockey) 20,396 (concert)
Primary Tenant: Quebec Ramparts & Potential Expansion NHL Franchise (Hockey)
Our final stadium opening in 2015 is the only one without a professional tenant. The new Quebec City Amphitheatre, aka Quebecor Arena, is built on the hope of drawing a future NHL franchise to this historic Canadian city that was once home to the Quebec Nordiques, as well as a possible bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. This all seems very speculative for a publicly-funded, $400 million building. With the Olympics a long shot and an NHL franchise no sure thing, the prospect of Quebecor Arena becoming a dreaded white elephant doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities. But, we’re giving the project the benefit of the doubt and trusting that its expected lineup of music concerts and local sporting events will bridge the gap until a primary tenant arrives.
Future use aside, this is a visually appealing building, designed by Canadian-Swiss firm ABCP Architecture and Populous. The white-paneled exterior blends in with the snowy Quebec winter and the interior is touted for its rapid conversion of uses. We really hope the above rendering of kids playing on a frozen pond outside is not just a rendering stunt and actually becomes a reality, as that kind of grassroots, local usage is just what these big, corporate projects need to stay relevant. And with that price tag, let’s hope they let the kids use the big rink inside – they kind of paid for it, didn’t they?
That there are only four significant stadia coming online in 2015 highlights the cyclical nature of our sport calendar. No World Cup, no Olympics, no Euros means this is a light year for stadium openings. Though, with the Rio Olympics and the Euro 2016 Football Championships in France coming next year, 2016 will be a big one for venues. After 2014’s onslaught of new stadia, with 12 major venues opening for the Brazil World Cup, we can take a breath and enjoy the relative calm and undoubted quality of the 2015 new stadia year. Enjoy it while it lasts.