The landscape of sports infrastructure in the Middle East
is experiencing a radical transformation as Gulf countries push to become
a leading global destination for sports events. The renovation of the Sabah Al
Salem Stadium project, home to the Al-Arabi Sports Club, is the latest project
to be unveiled. Tarek Shuiab, CEO of Pace Architecture and Engineering,
talks Stadia through the intricacies of building in the region.
Tell us about the importance for
new sports stadia in the Gulf?
The population of Gulf countries is young,
dynamic and growing at a rapid pace. Existing
sports and recreational facilities generally need
upgrade and expansion to cope with the
demands of new sports and an increase in usage
from this growing population.
Many Gulf states also suffer from a big issue
of obesity and associated health issues through
lack of access to modern recreational facilities
and the challenges of living in an environment
where air-conditioning is a necessity for
surviving the extreme summer temperatures.
How does constructing a stadium
in Kuwait differ from other
projects around the world?
Historically there has been a relatively low level
of funding for the development of sports
infrastructure projects in the Middle East,
however with increased wealth and as city
infrastructure develops and matures, funding
has been increased into this sector.
The management of sports infrastructure has
developed with innovation and strength in other
parts of the world, which is presenting
opportunity for international sports brands and
teams to provide expertise into the Gulf region
to ensure new builds are able to make best use
of its facilities and attract new audiences, both
locally and internationally.
What engineering challenges will
the project present?
Environmental issues dominate the list of
challenges for constructing stadia in Kuwait.
The extreme summer temperatures and over
170 days of airborne dust each year conspire
to create a hostile environment in which to
put on sporting activity. The high summer
temperatures come generally with very low
humidity unlike other parts of the Gulf, and
there is a tradition of moving to evening events
in the late spring and early autumn, mitigating
most issues and removing the need for comfort
cooling of the bowl or pitch. Airborne dust
however is a perennial issue, which even with
the most stringent maintenance regime puts
significant stress on an asset. The design should
avoid ledges and other open areas where dust
is able to settle.
Additionally, the utilities infrastructure
requirements of a stadium are significant and
require early review and planning. Many sites
in Kuwait are within well-developed residential
areas, which unlike some other Gulf nations,
have a mature infrastructure not easily adapted
for the significant increase in visitors and energy
requirements of a stadium.
Will the project’s workforce and
materials be local or imported?
In line with all government projects in Kuwait,
materials specification will favor local and
regional manufacture over internationally
manufactured and imported products. This
is an important aspect that the design itself
has considered from the outset, to avoid delays
in procurement. The design also employs
a considerable degree of standardization and
modularity to assist the construction process
and reduce the scale of workforce required
to deliver the project.
As a developing sporting nation,
what design and engineering
lessons have you been able to take
from other countries?
The design has been produced in full
compliance with FIFA standards and best
practice for the design of the bowl surrounding
the field, to guarantee that all seats benefit from
advantageous views of the sporting action.
To ensure these issues have been taken into
account and designed from the outset, the
architect has taken specialist advice from the
world’s leading advisors on soccer stadium
development, based in the Netherlands.
The involvement of an international
specialist has also served to ensure that all other
technical aspects of the stadium design are
futureproofed to accommodate changes in
facility management requirements through
to technology, including providing the club
with the ability to phase ticket sales to promote
an intimate experience of the action for all fans.
What does the future look like for
sports stadia in the Middle East?
We anticipate a bright outlook for fans of live
sporting action in the Middle East. Through
the result of increasing investment in physical
sporting infrastructure the region is
responding to a growing demand for live action.
New venues will be developed to support
an increasingly wide range of sports that are
enjoyed by Gulf country nationals and expats
alike, from soccer to American football,
baseball, tennis and racquet sports, aquatic
facilities and cycling - the latter of which
includes velodromes. n
30 www.stadia-magazine.com June 2019