As designers, we are increasingly challenged by clients to deliver sports venues to offer an event-day atmosphere that is impossible for even the most advanced home cinema systems to rival. Our significant know-how in delivering sports venues has enabled the Arup Sport Venue Design team to respond by developing a range of tools that allow clients and spectators to experience a venue in the design phases, well before completion, with the aim of enhancing match-day excitement.

Sports fans can now watch, interact and communicate with their heroes in many virtual formats, from real time social media platforms to the multi-platform screening of popular matches and events offered by international broadcasters. Using this data, the specialists at Arup are able to build a virtual event environment with limitless variables to test and demonstrate the venue during the design phases.

As we design, our acoustics team can recreate the soundscape and atmosphere of venues in our in-house SoundLab. The results of these simulations are assessed, and parameters such as the seating bowl or roof geometry are adjusted, until the ultimate soundscape and atmosphere are created. We can invite venue owners and directors, as well as the fans themselves, to the SoundLab to experience how their new facility will sound when completed.

By combining the acoustic stream with a 3D model of the design produced by our visualisation team, we can fully navigate our way around the stadium. Using virtual reality goggles we can walk around and hear the spaces we have created, evaluating them as we manoeuvre. Within the seating bowl one can sit – virtually, of course - in any seat and look around in any direction, assessing the quality of the experience from that particular location.


As digital trends develop and ‘new media’ becomes more fully integrated with sports broadcasting, fans in the future will be able to interface with the event totally differently from the way we do today. Content that is currently available at home via download or streaming, for example, will become available to fans within the venue. This opens up new ways for venue owners and operators to interact with their audience and, in tandem, the potential to develop more diverse revenue streams.

The importance of actually being at an event - the ‘I was there’ experience - is unmatchable. Could fans who witnessed the UEFA Champions League Final in 2005 or the Japan v South Africa upset at the IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 ever be able to replicate those complex environments digitally? We firmly believe the answer is ‘no’. Being there is key. And what’s important for us is to make the experience of being there even more powerful.

Sport stirs the emotions, creating memories along the way. It stimulates all the senses, offering escapism and the chance to be part of something bigger, part of a crowd constantly changing and shifting in response to the action on the pitch. It allows for spontaneous interactions with other fans all sharing the same passion for the team. Arup Sport Venue Design aims to enhance this unique experience by designing venues that allow for the best possible atmosphere and experiences.


The Arup Sport Venue Design team regards ‘the match-day human experience’ as its paramount design consideration. This is the way to ‘beat the box’, as it is almost impossible for the experience of being surrounded by thousands of fans to be captured in the digital world at home.

By developing our understanding of how people respond to the physical environment during an event we have identified the key drivers of a positive event-day experience across the full range of seating categories and hospitality offerings. We know that spectators experience events through all of their senses, so we have developed virtual strategies and design responses that are specifically targeted at engaging particular senses as fans navigate the venue.


With the parametric tools available to our design team, every seat within the venue can have an optimised position for all uses required by the client. We develop seating bowls to offer a range of seating types which are aligned with the ticketing and marketing requirement of the venue or event, while ensuring comfort and an excellent view of the action. In addition, we can enhance the sense of theatre within the seating bowl with theatre-style lighting, projection and pyrotechnic effects all of which add drama and visual stimulation.


Access to the expertise of our world leading acoustics team and in-house SoundLab gives us a unique ability to recreate the soundscape of the stadium during the design phase, allowing us to tune our designs to meet the client’s requirements. Competing requirements for sports events, music concerts and other uses requires specific design solutions that support venues to have the optimum acoustic environment across all of their projected uses.

Taste and smell

Our role as the designers of the building encompasses planning for food and beverage offerings within the venue and surrounding area, with the aim of offering the widest range of exciting fresh food. We welcome the developing trend for locally-sourced food, supplied by local businesses, because it often provides an experience more authentic to the venue location.

Working with venue operators our designs now seek to incorporate restaurants and ‘club’ facilities in spaces that can transform traditionally low revenue areas of the venue into high revenue spaces. Using the latest crowd modelling software we can design spaces to reduce queues for food service. And where demand is likely be sufficiently high to generate large queues, we can design spaces where spectators can be entertained whilst waiting.

In addition, we encourage stadium owners to develop a venue-specific mobile app that diverts spectators to less busy concessions, while venue operators can also help manage peak demand periods by providing an ‘at seat’ food ordering service which reduces reliance on traditional food and beverage concessions.


The materiality of spaces within venues often involves a trade-off between aesthetics and practicality. We are enthusiastic about the recent trend to improve the quality of finishes within venues because it is now being recognised that spectators will stay longer and increase spend per head if they feel they are in a high quality space.


We are continuously developing our virtual design approach to ensure our real-world venues deliver an exhilarating ‘all day’ event experience, providing an inclusive environment where there is a price point for every fan. Ultimately, venues are successful if they are fully-occupied for every event and we design to ensure each and every spectator is made to feel part of the event. Our venues offer owners and operators the flexibility to adapt their offering to meet the changing demands of fans.

There are exciting changes in venue design throughout the world. We are finding that venue owners, operators and spectators are becoming more discerning about the value a venue can offer on event-day. That’s great news for the Arup Sports Venue design team because we believe passionately that a fan-focused approach will create powerful new stadia for the future.


PanStadia & Arena Management - Online edition
Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016 - Tokyo