New Openings

Standing out

The past year saw a slew of innovative sports venues opening their doors. What makes these projects special?


Anchoring a leisure hub

Little Caesars Arena
Detroit, Michigan

Llittle Caesars Arena is a sports and entertainment venue and new home to the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise the Detroit Red Wings and National Basketball Association (NBA) team the Detroit Pistons.

The versatile arena has already hosted major performers including Janet Jackson, Jay-Z and Lady Gaga, and it will also host the US Figure Skating Championships in 2019.

The project stands out for its deconstructed model, which puts the usual amenities outside the arena rather than inside. This allows Little Caesars to act as the anchor to a wider leisure district of shops, restaurants, bars and cafés, attracting regular shoppers and diners as well as people specifically visiting the arena for a game or event.

HOK’s approach was driven by the need for sports venues to better connect to their communities and generate life and activity in urban districts year round. To integrate the arena with the surrounding community, the lower main concourse is completely at grade – meaning district and concourse activities both take place at street level.

Stadium stats
Architect: HOK
Capacity: 20,000
Cost: US$1.2bn (total development)
Completed: September 2017

Little Caesar Arena is designed to reach out to shoppers and diners
Little Caesar Arena is designed to reach out to shoppers and diners
Little Caesar Arena is designed to reach out to shoppers and diners
Little Caesar Arena is designed to reach out to shoppers and diners
The approach aims to forge a connection with the community and the sports stadium
The approach aims to forge a connection with the community and the sports stadium

High-tech roof canopy

Wanda Metropolitano
Madrid, Spain

Rather than starting from scratch, Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz expanded Atletico Madrid’s existing stadium, Estadio Olímpico de Madrid, a 20,000-seat athletics venue built in 1994, by incorporating parts of the original concrete stands. However, much of the remainder was demolished to more than treble its capacity.

Although inspired by the team’s former home, the Vicente Calderón Stadium, Cruz y Ortiz wanted to do something original.

“Our aim was not to recreate the famous atmosphere or appearance of the Calderón,” says studio co-founder Antonio Cruz. “This was a new proposition, and our responsibility was to find something new to help the club take another step forward.”

The biggest challenge was unifying the existing elements of the Olímpico with the new Wanda Metropolitano, something they achieved by stretching a canopy roof over the venue.

“It brings everything together as one building,” says Cruz. “We adopted a new technique, never used before, to make a canopy membrane – using an exterior steel and double height compression ring, an interior traction ring and two sets of radial cables. It’s the most innovative part of this project.”

Built by construction firm FCC, the roof weighs around 6,336 tons.

Other features of the stadium include a fan plaza, jumbo screens, a video mapping facade and WiFi enabled stands. A retail megastore will be among 16 commercial outlets, and a club museum is also planned.

Stadium stats
Architect: Cruz y Ortiz
Capacity: 68,000
Cost: €300m
Completed: September 2017

A membrane-style canopy unites the building structures
A membrane-style canopy unites the building structures
The new stadium could help drive the club to the next level
The new stadium could help drive the club to the next level
The new stadium could help drive the club to the next level
The new stadium could help drive the club to the next level

Futuristic cooling system

Khalifa International
Doha, Qatar

The first host venue of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Khalifa International Stadium, has been renovated and expanded. The 1976 stadium has been reinvented by local architecture firm Dar Al-Handasah.

It boasts a technologically advanced cooling system to keep the pitch at 26°C (79°F) and the stands at 24-28°C (74-82°F) year-round, “while using 40 per cent less energy than traditional cooling methods.”

Hilal Al Kuwari, chair of technical delivery at Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, says: “Fans of all ages and nationalities have a lot to look forward to when they visit the stadium, including the cooling technology we promised during our bid, a pitch that was developed at our one-of-a-kind Turf Nursery, and an immense atmosphere Arab fans alone can produce.”

A larger roof has been added over the entire spectator area, as well as new VIP areas, 61 guest suites, a media zone, a sports museum and new changing areas.

Seven other World Cup stadiums are currently under construction, and the country’s metro network is being upgraded so that journey times between all World Cup stadiums and accommodation locations are below one hour. This will mean fans can watch more than one live match per day for the first time the tournament’s history.

Stadium stats
Architect: Dar Al-Handasah
Capacity: 40,000
Cost: Undisclosed
Completed: May 2017

Khalifa International Stadium will keep the stands below 28°C
Khalifa International Stadium will keep the stands below 28°C
Khalifa International Stadium will keep the stands below 28°C
Khalifa International Stadium will keep the stands below 28°C
New VIP areas and guest suites have been added
New VIP areas and guest suites have been added

DayLight-filtering roof

Anna Meares Velodrome
Queensland, Australia

A state-of-the-art velodrome, named after one of Australia’s most successful athletes, is open in Chandler, Queensland, and hosted the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Track Cycling competition.

A semi-translucent, semi-opaque polytetrafluoroethylene (PTSE) white membrane fabric covers a steel web structure to create a 10,000sqm roof. The membrane allows daylight to filter through onto the competition standard 250-metre timber cycling track and can also be projected onto during events.

The sloping shape of the roof is inspired by the sport, and is taller along the straight lengths of the track to accommodate more seating. Seating is also very versatile, with 1,500 maximum-view permanent seats and the ability to hold an extra 2,500 seats. A multi-use sports court fills the centre of the track.

Part of the larger Sleeman Sports Complex, the energy and water-efficient velodrome connects to the rest of the site and nearby BMX circuit with plaza spaces.

Stadium stats
Architect: Cox Architecture
Capacity: 4,000
Cost: US$45m
Completed: November 2016

Anna Meares Velodrome is able to hold about 4,000 spectators / PHOTO: CFJ PHOTOGRAPHY
Anna Meares Velodrome is able to hold about 4,000 spectators PHOTO: CFJ PHOTOGRAPHY
The venue has a 250-metre cycling track / PHOTO: AIDAN MURPHY
The venue has a 250-metre cycling track PHOTO: AIDAN MURPHY

Allowing a glimpse inside

Royal Arena
Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s new national arena is designed to host national and international music, culture and sports events, including the 2018 World Ice Hockey Championships.

It’s formed of an organic podium supporting an elliptical structure with a wave-like semi-transparent facade.

According to the architects, the podium connects to the adjoining neighbourhood – with a variety of small plazas, pockets and gathering areas carved into the perimeter to absorb the movement of spectators and “promote activity and liveliness when the building is not in use.” Restaurants, bars, cafés and a large foyer are open to the public.

The 35,000sqm venue has a capacity between 12,500 and 15,000 depending on the type of activity taking place. During an event, people outside the building can enjoy glimpses of what is happening within through the vertical wooden fins that enclose the glass-aluminium facade.

“We started the design process within a radical rethinking of the arena typology, followed by a challenging process with form and materials to create a catalyst for life, social meetings and activities in the new urban area,” said the architects in a statement. “It’s more than just a beautiful setting for outstanding cultural and sporting events – it is designed to be a good neighbour to its community.”

Stadium stats
Architect: 3XN
Capacity: 15,000
Cost: ¤134m
Completed: February 2016

Royal Arena hosts the 2018 world ice hockey competition / shutterstock
Royal Arena hosts the 2018 world ice hockey competition shutterstock
Restaurants, bars 
and a large foyer are open to the public
Restaurants, bars and a large foyer are open to the public
Restaurants, bars 
and a large foyer are open to the public
Restaurants, bars and a large foyer are open to the public

World’s greenest stadium

Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta, Georgia

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, has become the first sports stadium in the world to achieve platinum certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

With an advanced stormwater management system and 4,000 solar panels – enough to power nine National Football League (NFL) games – the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer (MLS) team Atlanta United scored a record 88 points in its rating by the US Green Building Council.

“We set out to build a venue that would not only exceed expectations but also push the limits of what’s possible in terms of stadium design, fan experience and sustainability,” said Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank.

“We set a goal of achieving the highest LEED rating because it was the right thing to do for our city and the environment. With this achievement, we have a powerful new platform to showcase to the industry that building sustainably and responsibly is possible for a venue of any type, size and scale.”

The structure features an eight-petal plastic polymer retractable roof and huge interior bowl, the world’s largest 360 degree HD video screen, a fan plaza, and an edible garden created by Atlanta-based urban designers HGOR.

Stadium stats
Architect: HOK
Capacity: 83,000
Cost: US$1.5bn
Completed: August 2017

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is to host the 2019 Superbowl / PHOTO: PA IMAGES / PERRY MCINTYRE
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is to host the 2019 Superbowl PHOTO: PA IMAGES / PERRY MCINTYRE
Sustainability was important through the design stage
Sustainability was important through the design stage
company profile
Company profile: Robert D. Henry Architects + Interiors
Robert D Henry Architects (RDH-Architects) was founded in 1990 in New York City by Bob Henry, known as the “sensuous architect of serenity.”
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