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Motera Stadium rubber-stamps status as world’s biggest cricket venue

The new-look Motera Stadium has been officially renamed Narendra Modi Stadium on the day it officially sealed its status as the world’s largest cricket venue today (Wednesday) as India and England took to the field in Ahmedabad.

The 110,000-capacity stadium, which is staging the third and fourth Tests between the two countries, will be named in honour of India’s Prime Minister, who inaugurate the stadium with former US President, Donald Trump, at a ceremony a year ago.

Designed by Populous in collaboration with India’s top construction contractor, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), the stadium was developed within three years and officially unveiled by India’s President, Ram Nath Kovind, on Wednesday.

Home to the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA), the venue has become the largest capacity cricket stadium in the world, but the India v England day-night game is the first international match it has held since closing in 2014 ahead of its reimagination.

The new Motera Stadium has been built after the old venue, with a seating capacity of 35,000, was demolished in 2015. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which has a seating capacity of 95,000, previously held the title of the world’s biggest cricket venue. Eden Gardens in Kolkata had been India’s largest cricket ground with a capacity of 62,000.

Speaking to the Hindu Business Line newspaper ahead of the third Test, L&T’s whole-time director and senior executive vice-president of buildings, MV Satish, said: “Our biggest challenge was to construct a new stadium with a seating capacity of 110,000 on the same site of the older stadium that had a capacity of 35,000.

“We started the humongous task of constructing an elliptical or oval-shaped stadium with the detailed design for architecture, structure and allied services. Considering the speed and scale we had to achieve, we adopted pre-cast technology as the construction method to speed up construction.”

Satish continued: “The entire superstructure of the stadium is made up of huge, unequally shaped ‘Y’ columns that are 30 metres in height, 2.7 metres in width and weighing some 285 tonnes that were all pre-cast as one-piece, transported and erected at an extremely logistically challenging project site.

“The execution of structure steel roof with pre-stressed cables and PTFE fabric for the roof were other difficult tasks in which structure steel, cables and fabric design and execution teams had to interface for perfect execution.

“The roof has about 1,000-metre perimeter length, 10.5 m height truss, 30 m cantilever, and is provided at an elevation of about 40m from ground level. Planning and executing the movement of men, material and machinery were huge tasks considering the site was surrounded by residential complexes with even a temple within the site premises.”

The third and fourth Tests are expected to be sell-outs, with 50% capacity having been green lit from the second Test in Chennai. As such, crowds of 55,000 are set to make the games one of the biggest sporting events held in the COVID-19 era, and fans will have much to look forward to from their stadium experience.

Satish said: “The benchmark was the Melbourne Cricket Ground in terms of size, features and facilities; but also some other cricket stadiums around the world. Cricket being a spectator sport, it was imperative to construct a stadium that enhanced viewing experience by offering the audience a 360-degree unobstructed view of the field of play from any given location on the podium. It required much detailing and precision in our space planning and engineering.

“Credit also goes to our appointed architects, Populous, who came out with such an innovative design that made it look extremely simple. As one climbs to the upper seating bowl, one experiences the panoramic view of the field of play, gradually offering a vista experience.”

He added: “Apart from being the world’s largest cricket stadium, this is the first Indian stadium to have as many as 11 different pitches that have been curated by a well-known cricketer chosen by the client, the Gujarat Cricket Association, with the same soil used for both the playing and practice pitches. There are four sets of dressing rooms for the players, each with an in-built gymnasium and other facilities.

“It is the first stadium in India to have LED lights that are uniquely designed and placed in clusters that will eliminate shadows of the players on the ground. The stadium is the only cricket stadium in India to be awarded the Gold Green Building rating by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).”

With the third Test being a day-night affair, the stadium’s floodlights are critical to the success of the match. A GCA official told Indian news agency ANI that groundstaff and state association officials have worked on the floodlights for seven to eight months in an effort to ensure that sighting the pink ball isn’t an issue during the twilight phase of play.

The GCA official said: “Shadow monitoring has been done for seven-eight months. The lights will come on in Motera Stadium according to the shadow. Day-night matches have the twilight period and it is the most challenging.

“During the sunset period, the light is uneven. To maintain that, the floodlights are automatically programmed so that there are no shadows on the ground. There will be no shadows on show here. This facility is not present anywhere in the world right now.”

Image: Gujarat Cricket Association