Greek Super League football club PAOK has appointed a team consisting of domestic engineering and consulting firm SALFO and global architectural design company Populous to deliver a new stadium.

The presentation yesterday (Tuesday) came after Greece’s Council of State (CoS), the country’s supreme court, in April approved a proposal to setup the complete redevelopment of Toumba Stadium.

The redevelopment of the Thessaloniki-based club’s stadium has long been in the works, with the CoS deeming legal a draft Presidential Decree concerning the approval of a Special Urban Plan for the district of Toumba, where the venue is located.

Toumba Stadium first opened in September 1959 and has a current capacity of under 29,000. PAOK has played at the stadium since it opened, with the vision for the new project being fleshed out yesterday.

SALFO will lead the ‘Nea Toumba’ project, with yesterday’s formalisation of the venture set to lead to studies taking place on various masterplans for a scheme that will include regeneration of the area surrounding the stadium, with a view to securing construction permits next year.

Ioannis Dimogiannis, PAOK’s head of facilities and building infrastructure development, said the club is seeking a new home with a minimum capacity of 35,000, adding that other sites were considered before it was decided that PAOK needed to remain at its current home.

With 2026 being targeted as a delivery date for the new stadium, Dimitrios Moutsakis, PAOK’s project director, continued: Essentially, yesterday, the 20th of the month, was the first day of the start of the works. Within the next two months, we will receive three proposals for the studies of the stadium, which will include the masterplan.

“These proposals… will be evaluated by us and then by the people of PAOK and Thessaloniki. Once we choose a proposal, then we will proceed to the maturation of the concept which will take four to five months.

“Then there are two study roads, one for the stadium and one for the surrounding area – in consultation with the municipality and the region. After the concept matures, a building permit will be issued.”

The first phase of work will explore options for a flexible stadium and precinct that can be adapted to host a range of professional and community-focused sporting events, with the aim of creating a world-class facility that will enhance the social and economic fabric of Thessaloniki.

Populous’ design will seek to integrate the proposed stadium development with public transport connections and infrastructure as part of a major new masterplan that seeks to be a catalyst for regeneration.

Inclusivity will be at the heart of the design process. The proposed stadium will meet international standards for accessibility, while the planned new facilities will include a family-friendly zone, and cutting-edge AV and communications technologies will be utilised to create a fan experience to help attract and engage a new generation of PAOK supporters.

Moutsakis said: “The project is important for the whole of Thessaloniki, it will regenerate the entire area of ​​Toumba. It will respect the environment, it will give life to the area and it really needs such a development. After the completion of the concept, in six months the building permit will be ready. I believe that in the summer of 2023 we will have the building permit.

“The project brief gave clear instructions on the concepts to be delivered. The first is the absolute compliance in all areas of FIFA and UEFA guidelines, the second guideline is to transfer the soul and energy of Toumba, the atmosphere of Toumba. The third guideline is the commercial exploitation of the stadium space, so that it can operate 365 days a year and not only when the team has matches.

“Regarding the surrounding area, we want to make a space that will give sustainability to the area. Let families come, let people from all over the city play sports. There were many people interested in the project of Nea Toumba, but in the end SALFO and Populous were the best choices.”

Nick Reynolds, senior principal at Populous, added: “We want to help PAOK to develop a stadium that will be a landmark for Thessaloniki. It will not be a simple stadium. It will be a hub for everyone, a place for events all year round and for all the inhabitants of the city, so that we can increase the use of the stadium beyond the match days.

“We want to take the new stadium to another level. Take this fiery atmosphere and transport it to the new building. We focus on the experience of the fans, we use the geometry of the space as a tool but we also include the latest technology to help continue this atmosphere in Nea Toumba.”

Image: PAOK