First contacts with the sports stadium of the future
A billion pounds, 1.11 billion euros. This money could be used to fill the budget gaps in smaller countries. You could become Amazon’s one-thousandth shareholder. Or you could build a contemporary football stadium. Because that is the price that is currently being called for it – proven at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Then as now and probably the day after tomorrow, people will run after balls. But the venue for this is already a technical highlight with enormous requirements, currently best visible in London.
The home of the London first division club of the same name was only inaugurated in April 2019 and cost around £ 1bn. But the new building is also striking proof of what fans can expect today and in the future – for example in Qatar. The following article deals with these peculiarities of the modern stadium, but also the problems.
Autonomous deliveries for hungry visitors:
Depending on who you ask, drones are either an enormous threat for football stadiums against which weapons are needed – that would be the answer from security experts – or a tremendous opportunity – that’s what thought leaders think.
It always makes sense: the “catacombs” of the sports arenas have been extensive since the Roman Coliseum and the queues for bratwurst and Co. have missed many important moments in sports history.
Both sides have good arguments. But especially if you think of the autonomous aircraft as a service force, it quickly explains what possibilities there are: For example, it was only a few years ago that the San Francisco 49ers football team spent a lot of money on thousands of beacons to install in the stadium . The point: they should record the location of each viewer and call him back to his seat on time, using a cell phone, so as not to miss anything.
But this is exactly where the drone , which will soon replace the promising beacon itself, could fly: by flying said snacks directly to the seat; the app is then used to pay. However, this technology is actually still a long way off, because the discourse between security experts and thought leaders is still smoldering – even if the former could of course also benefit from the simplified monitoring of fan blocks by drones.
Evolution is necessary:
The criticism of technology and monetization in sports is not new. And it also extends to the stadiums. Quite a few ask why the arenas have to be a hyper-technical billion-dollar construction in the end, when the bottom line is to let tens of thousands of people attend a sporting event.
Perhaps the simplest answer comes from the architect of the Tottenham Stadium, the American Christopher Lee. He gave it to the “Guardian” in 2017 when the stadium was still valued at 750 million:
“It has to provide a reason for people to get off their sofas and leave their 50-inch flatscreen TVs”
In other words: stadiums have to be more than mere places for spectators. They have to become worlds of experience. Thanks to today’s television technology, you can get pure viewing in the highest resolution without having to move out of your apartment. So incentives are needed to get hundreds of thousands of people to come to the stadiums and spend their money there every year.
This is only possible through superlatives. And it’s even a must. Without stadium evolution, fewer and fewer people would watch and stay in front of said 50-inch televisions – and how an almost empty stadium can also affect TV moods was recently seen at the World Athletics Championships in Qatar, where sometimes only a few hundred people attended the spectacle; that’s why Spiegel Online called it “… a bizarre event …”.
Stadiums must have as much sophistication as possible. But the real problem of the future can be found in something that has actually become normal outside of lawn: mobile data transmission. Even the largest stadiums in Germany are not far from the population of a (small) city when fully occupied – for example, Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, which holds around 81,000 spectators.
The difficulty is the congestion of data that occurs when such large crowds access only a few access points at the same time – which happens just as regularly in Carnival as New Year’s Eve strikes midnight in every small town.
Today, all of these people expect WiFi or a fast mobile network. You want to upload photos and videos from the game to social networks. Those who bet on the game need real-time access to the fast-moving and complicated key system of odds so that they can type profitably. And last but not least, the combination of WiFi and apps is also the basis for numerous experience optimizations – such as ordering snacks or a kind of private video assistant, with which stadium visitors can watch controversial scenes again.
In Bremen, for example, politicians argued that the two million euros that would be needed for broadband and access points would be out of proportion to the fact that only 40,000 viewers would use it every two weeks – that is also something that stadium builders have to argue against.
At the same time, however, stadiums are usually only busy at home games every two weeks, so that only then necessary connections to network nodes, dozens of radio masts etc. pay off. No wonder that there is still room for improvement despite a lot of persuasion – for example, currently no ten German first division clubs have full WiFi in the stadium and the LTE coverage is highly provider-dependent.
A question of energy:
However, with all the joy of the future, one must not forget the energy consumption, which is of course considerable in a stadium with almost 100,000 people.
The current World Athletics Championships in Qatar once again showed where today’s problem is and will probably worsen against the background of climate change. There it was necessary to cool the stadium down to 26 ° C over 40 ° C outside temperature for ten days; the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf State will be similar.
Of course, the energy consumption for this, even without knowing specific numbers, should be gigantic. But at least regenerative energy is used here. In other countries this can sometimes not happen to the extent – although the two summers 2018 and -19 showed that air conditioning can make sense for the safety of athletes even in our latitudes; especially since, contrary to this, lawn heating is often necessary.
However: Even if many clubs give themselves an environmentally green coat of paint, this point is far from fully clarified in the future planning . There are enough architectural games of thought for zero energy stadiums. However, the sports arena of the future will still remain energy-hungry.
The XXL screens, the planned vibrating seats and thousands of other consumers in the stadium of the future will also need energy. Likewise, the lighting, which should be the largest single item on the electricity consumption bill in every stadium – 10,000kWh of electricity is required per match in Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, for example. This is one of the reasons why LED floodlights are used in Tottenham, which “only” require 450kW in full operation and not the almost 1000 of conventional halogen spotlights.
Versatile – for profitability:
Today’s prices for stadiums are also no standard for rich cities, clubs, sports associations – but once again Tottenham serves as a good example.
There it was clear early on that even Premier League football would not bring in the necessary funds to recoup the gigantic expenses in a reasonable amount of time. A problem that arises with practically every new stadium, because it is impossible to increase the admission prices in this way. There is already a lot of criticism of ticket prices today.
Tottenham therefore makes use of a technology that made its debut in 2001 in the Schalker Veltins Arena : the entire lawn is built on a three-part sliding under-tray that can be moved under the grandstand if necessary to expose a second floor below.
On Schalke, this is made of reinforced concrete, while in Tottenham, on the other hand, it consists of an artificial turf the size of an NFL field – the club has signed a ten-year contract with the North American football league for guest performances. The first of these took place on October 6, 2019, when the Chicago Bears met the Oakland Raiders; the second game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed on October 13. In addition, the second floor was specially planned so that it is not damaged even with third-party use – such as concerts.
This versatility on the ground is complemented by more and more stadiums by:
Quickly lockable roofs
Simple interchangeable seating
Huge video screens (at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, for example, a 360-degree screen has recently started working)
This is to achieve maximum versatility, which would ideally occupy future stadiums every day of the week – where conversions, for example for concerts, take weeks in older stadiums. Daily occupations are certainly a very ambitious idea, but due to the high flexibility they are no longer completely unrealistic for the first time. However, what fans think of the desire of some visionaries to be able to experience away games in the home stadium with holograms is likely to be discussed.