Martin Murphy, Aviva Stadium: New stadium projects ask for comprehensive planning, don't underestimate your year 1 budget
One of the keynote sessions focused on stadium lifecycle. An introduction was provided by Dimitri Huygen, Managing Director ESSMA, followed by presentations from Martin Murphy, Stadium Director Aviva Stadium and Eric Hart, Head of Tampa Sports Authority managing Raymond James Stadium.
Martin Murphy, Stadium Director Aviva Stadium presented the iconic Aviva Stadium, which is home to the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU). The stadium officially opened on April 10, 2010 and has a 51,700 (all seats) capacity.
Old to new: the main challenges
Aviva Stadium has been built on the site of the former Lansdowne Road Stadium. A first challenge was designing a stadium with the advantages of the former stadium e.g. being close to the pitch and having a cauldron-style setting. Other challenges with regard to design were related to the railway track next to the stadium, a river boundary and a residential neighbourhood bordering the stadium site. Main reason for the iconic design with the stadium being low at one end was to not disturb the amount of light into the residential homes and to fit in the landscape. Demolition of the old Lansdowne Road started in 2007. Challenges with regard to demolition and construction involved:
- Safely de-mantling the asbestos roof
- Grounding up and recycling as much materials as possible
- Closing down the railway track over two weekends with a tight deadline
- Shipping the roof from Italy to Dublin (six shiploads over the course of a year)
- Using just one stadium entrance for all the materials and machines
- Only be able to work from 7am until 7pm due to the residential area
The new Aviva Stadium had a cost of €410 million and was delivered on time and on budget. Moreover, a return on investment had been realised, from increased employment to the numerous events that are now being hosted at the venue.
One of Aviva Stadium’s main goals was to have a close and good relationship with the local residents. During the planning and building stages a hotline was set-up to answer any queries. In addition, after the delivery Aviva Stadium set up a community fund.
Year 1 challenges
Year 1 had been the main challenge, because they had gone from such a basic stadium to an ultra-modern one, which meant they had to grapple with new staff, new plans, etc. Martin explained that the actual cost versus forecasted cost for staffing and training were extremes as were the costs for FF&E, reversal of the value engineering, design oversights and operational discoveries, which hadn’t been taken into consideration before.
A stadium needs certain lifetimes to plan renovations and have the required budget. For Aviva Stadium these timelines are divided into:
- 3 - 5 years: replace IT equipment, hardware, servers, etc.
- 10 years: pitch, big screens, floodlights
- 20 -25 years: seating
- 50 years: probably the end of the Aviva Stadium lifecycle
Murphy outlined these as follows:
- Year 1 costs are extraordinary, as there are lots of unknowns and every stadium is different;
- Investment in technology is unseen (e.g. WiFi or CCTV), due to the time from design/concept to delivery;
- Keeping up with the times and your competition is vital; as is keeping up with the changing customer expectations;
- Comprehensive planning and forecasting are essential;
- Stadiums are expensive to operate and maintain;
- Maintaining a good relationship with local residents is key.