We are investing millions on sporting super structures. Should we be working harder to ensure not just a financial but community ROI.
How do you design sports super structures to fully leverage the asset and deliver an exceptional fan experience?
How do these structures compare when we consider the fan offering is more than a sports game but a day out experience.
It’s no great secret that the sporting industry invests on a grand scale when building stadiums. In recent years we have seen Tottenham Hotspurs spend $1.3 billion on a stadium designed to host NFL games and premiership football, PusKas Arena $615.8 million, Al Janoub Stadium $643 million, and Japan National Stadium $1.43 billion. We are spending millions, if not billions, on incredible super structures. “I’ve always been fascinated with these billion dollar facilities and their lack of utilisation” says Jason Harborow MD and Special Advisor at Global13.
These feats of structural engineering designed to hold athletes and spectators are huge investments considering that on average they are used to maximum capacity for three hours a day, less than 20 times per year in normal circumstances, and even less given the current situation. So how do sports organisations design these facilities to fully leverage the asset? “To me It is evident these structures need to be designed at the heart of the community and with flexibility as one of the measurable success criteria before the building work commences.” says Jason Harborow MD and Special Advisor at Global13 (pictured right).
“In order to deliver an asset that remains flexible, utilisable and aligned to the changing needs of the community it is of the utmost importance that we (architects and project managers) engage with our clients both at an early stage and throughout the design process ”
Global13 Real Estate Advisor, Andrew Ford.
When we consider the purpose of these super structures across the sporting landscape it becomes clear that they are more than just a place for pinnacle sport to take place. They lay claim to being a cohesive community hub or home, a place where dreams are nurtured and new sporting heights reached. But more often than not they are designed with two teams, media and concession sales in mind; designed with prioritisation of a three hour window of profit maximisation as opposed to sweating the asset. We need to consider designing for community rather than just one off games, we need more than a hospitality suite. These stadiums and sports facilities should inspire community activity and participation on a grander scale than stadium tours that end with a trip to the gift shop.
North America is leading the way and showing us that we can use these stadiums for longer periods, to extend the day and make it a premier experience: a day out in which the stadium is loaded as if it were a cruise liner. We need to reframe our competitive benchmarking — stadiums and games are a day out, an experience. So what can we learn from benchmarking vs other family experiences such as a day trip to Disney world? Fans ideas of how they attend sporting events will be challenged by the coronavirus pandemic. Innovative leaders will understand that fans concern with safety and interest in self-preservation offers forward-thinking executives an opportunity. As safety takes precedence over traditions and “the way we do things around here” we are being granted the opportunity to re-imagine, and indeed reinvent, sport.
As organisations embrace advances in technology we can envisage an experience in which all visits to a stadium become personalised and targeted hyperlocal mobile marketing. A stadiums profitability on match days will be maximised through the use of fan profiles and curated agendas and content guiding users to behaviours that contribute to this. With this tailored marketing and a better understanding of the consumer, the opportunity for attendees to upgrade or gain access to exclusive experiences is presented.
In North America we are getting a glimpse of what a day of good utilisation looks like as attendees arrive early in the morning to meet their friends and compare forecasts for the game at the stadium. But what’s keeping this captive audience engaged even after the game ends? What is keeping spectators inside the stadium, not necessarily in their seats, but within the stadium and ultimately impacting the commercial revenue generation?
Populous is quoted stating that they aimed to create a “democratic” stadium in the new Tottenham Hotspurs ground, designed to host not only Football but international NFL, Rugby league and music concerts also. By this, they refer to ample concourses where all attendees can roam and a “market place” where you can consume multiple different kinds of food and beer brewed on site. The idea of a segregated “corporate level” is, they say, “archaic”. Those people paying more “shouldn’t be in a little bubble”. 
Can we take this idea further than game day? If we look to Japan we find some of the most innovative constructions in Saitama Super Arena and Sapporo Dome, both structures we’ve considered in previous feasibility studies. We had the pleasure of attending the events in Japan in 2019 and look forward to attending the Olympics when they are rescheduled.
When we visited the Sapporo Dome we felt it must truly be one of the world’s greatest sporting stadiums. A fully enclosed, 40,000 seat technological masterpiece. Designed to host baseball matches in a diamond format, it transforms and reshapes to house a rectangular field for rugby or football. Incredibly, the rectangular pitch is a natural grass turf, grown outdoors. When the stadium transforms, the pitch automatically floats into the stadium and is positioned around the newly reconfigured seating set up. Check out this VIDEO to view the transformation in action.
Saitama super arena, on the other hand, operates as more than a sports stadium, primarily an events arena. It has hosted AC/DC, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry concerts alongside NHL and NBA games and is set to host some elements of the next Olympics. With no home team or anchor tenant this facility is fully flexible and, part owned by the city council, it was designed with the collective community in mind. This venue utilisation is significant with fifty four stadium events per year, one hundred and fifty eight event days, sixty one lower bowl event days, whilst acting as community arena one hundred and ninety seven event days per year. Whilst the venue is less reliant on income from advertising and naming rights due to its impressive utilisation of these assets ensuring a return on investment within the first 5 years.
“Designing and building assets that are multi-functional and flexible placed in the right part of any city or masterplan will not only ensure that clients optimise their ROI but also become integral hubs of these communities, add social value and don’t become ‘white elephants’” says Real Estate Advisor Andrew Ford
“In our minds, the future is to design hyper-flexible structures focused on community, much like our Japanese counterparts with the Saitama super arena. It begs the question: as single business entity office spaces are called into question and society focuses more upon staying fit and healthy, can these privately owned super structures consider how they might offer a place for employees to regularly come together? Can they become a flexible social and community environment as well as a flexible stadium? Social spaces such as coffee shops and cafes have morphed into mobile offices, so why can’t we take places of passion and inspiration such as these and broaden their purpose for society?” Jason Harborow, Managing Director and Special Advisor, Global13.