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Across the world, governments and sports fans continue to be enamoured of huge sporting events and the ambitious new infrastructure that goes with them. We all understand the health and wellbeing benefits and the value to local economies. But without careful planning they can equally become dead places, or end up a drain on public funds.
Taking a global perspective I’ve arrived at ten rules for creating vibrant sporting destinations that have real long-term value:
1. Think beyond the finish line. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was planned to provide a huge variety of on-going uses in its post-Games phase. It’s now a much-loved leisure destination for Londoners, bordered by a new neighbourhood that was originally the Olympic Village. Athens 2004, by contrast, demonstrates how not to do it.
2. Take the wider view. A successful venue must connect to the world beyond its doors or gates. That’s why the 2012 Games in London included regeneration plans for much of East London’s surrounding waterways and parkland.
3. Sustainability in each mode of operation. Set clear achievable targets for energy, waste, materials, water and mobility, from base-build, through event and legacy modes. These will safeguard long-term operational costs, while doing the right thing by the environment.
4. Not just sport. Enduring footfall relies on local enthusiasm. In its first year of operation the Singapore Sports Hub, with its mix of sports, entertainment, office, retail and community uses set in parkland, attracted more than one million people on non-sporting-event days.
5. Embedded urbanism. Be a valued neighbour. The Emirates Stadium precinct in London, squeezed into an unforgivingly tight site, has managed to incorporate mixed-tenure housing (including more than 1,000 affordable homes) helping its bottom line while meeting community need.
6. Partnership in delivery. Public and community bodies need to work with private ones. After London’s 2011 riots all key stakeholders came together to find more inclusive ways to use public space. Coinciding with local Tottenham FC’s redevelopment plans, the result is a proposed enlarged stadium that integrates with the surrounding area, creating new, more engaging public spaces.
7. Focus on the ‘Last Mile’. Get the first and last leg of the journey wrong and a facility might be doomed. Ensure good public transport connections, pedestrian ease, wayfinding and accessibility.
8. Beyond the front door. Facilities need to embed attractively and intuitively into their immediate surroundings, with a focus on the quality of public spaces.
9. Build a broad business case. A venue should have breadth of commercial audience and purpose all year round, from sport to music, art to business.
10. Think local. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NYC, has embraced local food and drink vendors, building a reputation for supporting neighbourhood artisans and entrepreneurs, rather than relying on the usual giants like KFC and McDonalds.
Taken together these rules provide an approach that ensures the whole community, from sports fans to local businesses, contractors to local government gains long-term benefits from sporting infrastructure investment, socially as well as financially.