Thursday, January 24, 2013

A $1 Billion Real-ity

We all can agree that buying your own island is secures your status as successful and wealthy. The likes of Johnny Depp, Mel Gibson, Sir Richard Branson and David Copperfield are a few individuals who have spent their millions on private vacation spots all over the world. So what status do you reach when you have enough money to build a man-made island with the world's first soccer stadium that opens up to the sea, vacation villas, an amusement park and 5-star hotel?? Very successful and very wealthy?? Regardless of the official status name, the Executive Officials for the Real Madrid Football Club have cut a $1 Billion check to make the image above a "Real-ity" in January of 2015. No, it is not an individual putting up the $1 Billion for the "island," but to me a Billion is a Billion. The fact that an organization has that much money to invest in such a large project exemplifies the direction in which urban planning is headed. There are not a lot of scholars who have really explored the notion of sports architecture revolutionizing how cities are planned, but from the essays and books I have read, they all point in the same direction. Sport has become a phenomenon that has always been a big part of human civilization, and year after year it seems as though it is growing at a faster rate. Teams are spending absurd amounts of money on players, new structures, signing record-breaking T.V. deals and sports apparel manufactures are increasing their gross income. 

With sports having such a huge impact economically, high end retail stores, bars and restaurants are spending a lot to ensure they are located at every major stadium across the country and world. For these non-sport businesses it really has become shooting fish in a barrel. There will always be big spenders at sports venues, so even though it might be absurd to the average person that some of these restaurants charge $40+ a plate, there will always be individuals who want to certify their status (and boost their self-esteem) by eating at those restaurants. Sports really have become a way we measure someones status/ importance, and I am talking about the spectators, not the players. I always catch myself saying that people who sit court side or in the box important/powerful, know somebody or a groupie. I never catch myself saying "He/she is probably somebody who has been saving for months to buy those tickets." It is not to say that is not true, but with those type of tickets the safe assumption is because they have the money to spend without hurting their wallets. How many times do you catch people posting up pictures on social media sights showing off how great their seats are and the luxuries that come with it? I do a lot, even if they are bad seats but at an unforgettable game, they are getting posted up because in today's society it acts as a measurement stick on how well you are doing in life. But like I said, the spectrum goes in both directions. For me, most of the photos are from people who I know for fact didn't buy those tickets but act as if they did to boost their egos! The concept of being a "fan" diminishes more and more every year, and it is a shame because maybe that person who has been saving money for months to get court side seats is the biggest fan of all time, and for once he/she was able to treat themselves for the first time ever. I may sound like a hypocrite because I did the same thing she I went to go see Chelsea play in Yankee stadium, but for me it was more about the moment than the glory. They are my favorite soccer team, and living in the U.S., I am not sure if I will ever see my club, who is based out of London, ever again.

As far as the Real Madrid Resort, it is astonishing that this is the next step in advertisement for a franchise. Officials at the football club explain that the purpose behind this expansion is exposure and being more accessible to their fans. Located in the UAE, it is right in the center of Europe, Asia and most of Africa for its huge fan base. They claim that most people in the 3 continents are no more than 4 hours away from the resort to come see their team play, which is more convenient than flying from Japan or China to Madrid. But like I have preached in previous Sport Architecture posts before, the playing surface doesn't come alone. There are stores, restaurants, hotels, bars etc that come with the playing arena. The fact is that games are a celebration, and history shows that spectacles such as in Antiquity were celebrated by the whole city. Unfortunately, the stadium cannot hold the whole population, so with today's  technology we are given the opportunity to watch the event on a tv in restaurants, bars and hotels with other fans who weren't able to buy a ticket to watch it live.

With the stadium only holding 10,000 people, 75,000 less seats than their home stadium in Madrid, restaurants, bars and other public viewing places will be vital in keeping everybody happy at the resort during a game. Franchises have really taken full responsibility in the urban development for their cities, bad and good. When Dodger Stadium was being built in LA, there was a huge controversy and protest against the plans because it would remove thousands of people from their homes. For years it created a huge rift in supporting the team, and even today some people still hold grudges against the organization. For Real, they won't deal with such an issue since they are building a man-made island that doesn't involve removing a large amount of people. Compared to other sport architecture projects, this is definitely a very extreme example, but projects such as the $1.2 Billion Cowboy Stadium already exist, so it is evident owners and executives are willing to spend top dollar to increase their fan base, and ultimately certify their status in Sports history. Money talks, and when owners spend a ridiculous amount of money to upgrade their facilities it shows the commitment they have to their team, and appreciation for their fans. And as the years go by, the collegiate level is experiencing the same status effect to win over high school recruits. Even high school programs are raising money to build up to date locker rooms and weight rooms. And if you think this effect hasn't hit the high school circuit fully, than you haven't heard about the $59.6 million stadium at Allen High School in Texas. Sports Architecture is well and alive, and every year it continues to produce bigger, better and more expensive projects.

Check out the video below showing the state of the art facilities and amusement park the Island will feature!!

If you guys are still in shock about the high school stadium in Texas, click the link below to read the article.

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