The German Bundesliga is currently 26 weeks old with powerhouses Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund equal top of the table, boasting 60 points each, while RB Leipzig sit third on 49.
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The trouble with stadiums like the SFS, Lang Park or Homebush is that they are far too big and dilute the atmosphere inside for the fans who go along. Unfortunately, new stadiums cost a lot of money which makes finding funding difficult.
But there are lower cost designs which can make this less of a barrier.
While large stadiums might work for mega clubs overseas, most Australian clubs will only ever draw small crowds and this makes modular systems both very appealing and highly practical.
If you start small you can then build up and grow with the clubs needs over time. A number of architecture firms have modular systems specifically to meet this need and they would be very useful here in Australia.
In Arizona, you can find the Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex which holds 6,200 seats for a club who play in America’s second tier, the United Soccer League. After building grassroots support and achieving average attendances of over 6,000 for the last two seasons they have now found investment from Advantage Sports Union Ltd. who are pushing for an MLS bid.
Another stadium that is well worth mentioning is one planned for San Diego 1904 FC. Officially, the name was suggested by a fan and is supposed to represent S which is the 19th letter of the alphabet and D which is the fourth, but it is also rumoured that 1904 references a joke from the movie Anchorman, in which Ron Burgundy claims that the city was discovered by the Germans in 1904.
Regardless of the true meaning of their team name, the stadium itself is of interest here. It will hold 9,500 seats and will cost US$15 million to build. It’s also interesting to note that it was designed by Populous who have designed far more expensive stadiums in Australia, both current and under construction.
This shows that they can also build low cost stadiums if they are given a design brief to do so. All you have to do is ask.
But while the stadiums of Phoenix Rising and San Diego 1904 are suitable for purpose they are still a bit basic. However, there is a modular stadium system concept from Italy which might be very practical for clubs in Australia, made from a surprising material. Wood.
Architecture firm Bear Stadiums have teamed up with timber manufacturer Rubner Holzbau to create a concept for mid-capacity modular stadiums made of glulam timber which “can be assembled in just six to eight months”.
The system was specifically conceived for Italian teams aspiring to move up the league system, starting with as few as 1,500 seats and increasing incrementally up to 20,000 if they enter Serie A.
The cost is set at €1,500 per seat compared to €2,500-€3,000 per seat for traditional methods of construction. According to Bear Stadiums, 80 percent of the global market for stadiums is in the 5,000 – 20,000 seat range for capacity. It also sounds about right for Australia.
Bear Stadiums have had experience building Frosinone Calcio’s 16,000-seat Stadio Benito Stirpe for €20 million in 2017, while Rubner Holzbau have built multiple large mass timber buildings across Europe. I see no reason why their modular timber stadium construction system wouldn’t be viable.
The cost of construction in the Bear Stadiums system can be kept down further by using unskilled labour since the simple construction means that only 10 percent of the workers on site need technical knowledge. This opens the possibility of using fan labour to help put it together, like an Ikea flat pack.
The stadiums for Phoenix Rising, San Diego 1904 and Frosinone Calcio might be suitable for smaller clubs but there are still a few larger clubs in Australia who could need bigger stadiums and I’ll now turn my attention to these.
While most clubs in Australia will only need stadiums in the 5,000-20,000 seat range there may be a few who could need stadiums with 25-35,000 seats such as Brisbane and Adelaide. For these you could look to a number of German designs.
WWK Arena in Augsburg, Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion in Dresden, MSV-Arena in Duisburg, MDCC-Arena in Magdeburg, Volkswagen Arena in Wolfsburg, Opel Arena in Mainz and BayArena in Leverkusen would all be suitable and relatively inexpensive.
Or if you look to England there’s the 25,000 seat Darlington Arena which was built for £18 million in 2003. Bargain.
Darlington Arena looks a lot like St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, not too shabby. If you want a 25,000-seater for the A-League then look no further. Perfect for Brisbane, it could even fit north-south at Perry Park if you move the PCYC to the east and turn the training pitch into a green roof.
There are plenty of stadium options suitable for Australia if you look around. Modular stadiums in particular have a number of advantages which are making them increasingly popular in America.
Places like Canberra, Geelong, Hobart, Launceston, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns and Ballarat as well as old clubs from the former NSL will need small stadiums.
Places like Brisbane and Adelaide will need bigger ones. But whatever the size, keeping the cost down in the design selection phase will make it a lot easier to lobby governments for the money needed to build them.