Kyoto has waited over 2 decades for its new football stadium. Now that it came, it instantly gained national recognition. Now it’s also part of our Stadium of the Year list.
The first professional football-specific stadium in Kyoto was expected to be delivered ahead of the 2002 World Cup. But as Japan joined the initial bid with Korea, the number of host cities was cut and Kyoto was considered the biggest loser of the shuffle. Plans resurfaced again in 2003, again to no avail. Finally, in 2010 the situation changed. The initiative gained momentum and by mid-2011 there were nearly half a million signatures in support of a new football stadium.
There were five locations under consideration, only one of them within Kyoto itself. By the end of 2012 the selection was made, roughly 300 meters away from the train station in Kameoka. Railway connection is considered crucial for matchday travel. The initial plot proved to be home to the near-extinct ayumodoki fish, which caused it to be moved almost exactly towards the train station.
The new plot of 33,000 m2 is diamond-shaped, which forced major changes to the stadium design. Instead of oval shape, the stadium became an octagon with sharply cut corners. The seating bowl was no longer single-tiered, the upper sections had to provide a significant overhang and were pushed towards the field. Additionally, matchday crowd circulation was removed from street level entirely, onto an open-air concourse attached to the external walls. Its main ramps are located in the north, from where most fans approach the building.
In architectural terms, the stadium seems to follow the lead of Suita’s football stadium, that is a conservative bowl of precast concrete is contrasted with decorative canopy. That roof extends outwards to protect people on the concourse below. Its cover may be regular tin, but its properties were selected in such a way that from a distance it resembles traditional ceramic tiles. The roof’s inner side is covered with wood, in turn, further associating the stadium with traditional temple architecture.
Wood and tradition come to mind on many occasions when near the stadium, perhaps nowhere as much as at the timber-clad public footbath, open daily until evening. Wood for the stadium was sourced from various places across the Kyoto prefecture, to ensure local associations. Timber cladding fills corridors, ceilings and other surfaces across the stadium, primarily in the most representative areas.
Although the stadium is very robust and spatially constrained, 4 floors of facilities were created within the 27.6-meter-tall venue. In total there’s 35,600 m2 of space. From the more conventional features (8 conference rooms, 5 meeting rooms, 16 skyboxes and 3 VIP halls), through all necessary sporting and administrative facilities, to far less obvious choices. The east stand hides a 16-meter tall climbing wall, the first indoor one in Japan able to host all international events for climbers. There’s also room for exhibition space, used during the first year to create a museum of historical TV dramas, produced in Japan for 60 years.
The seating layout has made a positive impression among fans travelling from other cities. The stands are very compact, distance between front row and the field is exactly 10.5 m in the north and east, 8.5 m in the west and 7.5 m in the east. The lower tier’s slope is 21-24º, while the upper’s 32º. Additionally, the auditorium is raised by 1.2 m above the field. This improves sightlines on the one hand, while on the other creates an open air corridor from north to west, ensuring the grass is ventilated all the time.
Another effort to ensure field quality is the south stand’s roof, covered with glass (2,800 m2) instead of tin. The opaque cover above other stands is the base of an impressive photovoltaic power plant of 8,000 m2. The plant generates 1 MW of clean energy, of which the stadium can retain 12 kWh in power storage, through infrastructure donated by Kyocera.
The company is also the stadium’s naming rights partner, having signed a 20-year deal worth ¥2 billion. It helped cover cost overruns during construction, which ended at ¥16.7 billion ($159 m). Perhaps more interesting than the corporate naming part is the other one. Sanga Stadium is the first in Japan to officially recognise the home club in its name.
Author: Michał Karaś