Delegates at TheStadiumBusiness Design & Development Summit 2022 were left in no doubt that the industry is pushing the boundaries in terms of creativity, sustainability and diversity to bring people back to venues in the midst of society’s broader ‘permacrisis’.
Over two days of engaging conference panel sessions and presentations, stellar speakers from across the world offered their insights into a sector that is determined to look to the future with innovative ideas that will ensure stadia and venues remain vital destinations for life’s most stunning spectacles.
Delegates in Manchester were treated to updates from some of the world’s most high-profile and ambitious projects.
With the event taking place during the Qatar 2022 World Cup, several sessions focused on the stadiums being used for the finals. BDP Pattern’s Dipesh Patel and Hoare Lee’s Simon French explained the technologies and structural designs that were developed in preparation for a summer World Cup. Forum by Nowy Styl’s Jakub Rachfalik described how the Poland-headquartered business has manufactured more than 350,000 seats for six of the Qatar stadiums.
Everton FC’s Bramley-Moore Dock development is exciting not just for fans of the club but also people from across the stadium ecosystem. Roy Westwood, founder of Forward Associates, previewed some of the venue’s hospitality plans in a presentation focussed on the importance of paying attention to the finer details.
Mas Monumental, the home of Argentinian football giants River Plate, is one of South America’s most celebrated venues having hosted the World Cup final in 1978. A panel featuring representatives from the club and developers IDOM discussed a major remodelling of the venue, which includes the removal of its athletics track and expansion of the stands.
Marko Hume, CEO of Nokia Arena, discussed the lessons during the development and opening of the Finnish venue that is setting new standards for data utilisation. Bath Rugby’s Alex Cohen, along with Ben Da Costa, from partner Bendac, looked at the technological challenges faced by older venues such as the club’s The Rec home ground.
In an enlightening session, KSS’s Andy Simons took us back through 30 years of the Premier League and how the competition’s financial and sporting development has inspired the pioneering stadiums and training facilities where its stars play games and prepare for them. In a keynote delivered as the event’s finale, industry veteran Henk Markerink, the man who led the Johan Cruyff Arena for more than 25 years, explained how its embrace of technology and innovation explains why it continues to be one of Europe’s most advanced venues.
From a creative perspective, Donna Davidson, Executive Project Director at BRC Imagination Arts, and Une Marija Jurkstaite, Head of Experience at the planned YTL Arena in Bristol, delved into how suppliers and operators can proactively tackle evolving customer expectations to deliver unforgettable experiences.
Jurkstaite pointed out that, through the design of a venue, it is crucial to understand the motivations, expectations and potential pain points for each customer segment, whilst having the flexibility to fulfil a range of visitor expectations.
Immersive experiences, smart products and services, transparent personalisation, employee experience, achievement experience and avoiding genderism and other biases were highlighted as important trends shaping the future of the customer experience.
Davidson echoed these thoughts, and added that authenticity to the experience is essential, touching on BRC’s role in delivering an award-winning tour featuring the latest technology at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
Creativity is perhaps required more than ever at the grassroots and community level of sport, where there are finite funds for developments and every pound, euro and dollar is hard-earned.
This is a challenge facing Mark Langhammer, Director of Crusaders FC, and Paul Burns, Executive Director of The Waterloo Minor Soccer Club.
Burns described how a close relationship with Bundesliga giant Borussia Dortmund had provided valuable guidance for his club’s plans as they weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of the classic refurb versus rebuild debate.
For Langhammer, Crusaders’ commitment to the local community, intertwined with creative value-in-kind initiatives and carefully considered funding strategies, are paving the way for the club to elevate its Seaview stadium to the next level.
The theme of sustainability ran throughout the conference, and was perhaps summed up most succinctly by Harald Fux, Sports Architect and CEO at Raumkunst, who reflected on developments at Austrian stadia over the past two decades.
Sustainability in this sector, he argued, is simply about designing “long-lasting architecture” – with multiple green and energy-saving initiatives having become indispensable to stadium design.
Marko Hurme, CEO of Nokia Arena, also outlined how the Tampere venue has been future-proofed, underpinned by a flexible arena ecosystem with partner companies.
These insights by Fux and Hurme expanded on a panel discussion at the close of day one of the event, when sustainability in action was discussed by Mark Donnelly, COO/CFO of OVG International, Robert Ebdon, Estates Director, MCC (Lord’s), Aidan Miller, Stadium Development Head of Finance, Everton FC, Jim Saywell, Director- Sustainability, Buro Happold and Steve Macey, Director, Buro Happold.
Various venues were referenced in the discussion, including Co-op Live, the state-of-the-art “music-first” entertainment venue that is scheduled to open just a few miles away from the Summit’s host venue at Emirates Old Trafford late next year.
Stephanie Bax, MD of European Operations and Senior Vice-President of CAA Icon, which has been heavily involved in the development, described how input from performers, including investor Harry Styles, had helped to shape plans for the venue.
With a lower roof, a large floor space and numerous seating configurations, the venue is set to be intimate, as well as impactful for artists, as well as attendees.
This theme of opening up a project to more diverse perspectives – including those of the performers themselves – was explored in detail by a panel that explored the complexities and opportunities of bringing together a range of different voices and cultures to deliver a memorable venue.
Emmanuel Afolabi, Civil Engineer, Ramboll and Founder & CEO of The Fest Hub, Ela Greatorex, Senior Project Manager, Legends, Martin Willis, Director, Buildings, Ramboll, Adam Selvey, Design Excellence Director, Ramboll, Kirsty Mitchell, Architectural Project Manager, HOK, described how projects had been enhanced by an inclusive approach. However, whilst progress had been made, they warned that a patient approach is required to bring some clients onside by demonstrating that it is in their interests to have a diverse team supporting a venue development.