New training centre & stadium upgrade at SV Zulte Waregem

By November 23, 2015

On Wednesday the 28 of October, the ESSMA staff was invited to explore the new training complex and the recently developed stand at SV Zulte Waregem.

During the visit we were guided by Mr Pieter-Jan Vanschamelhout (Stadium Manager) who was accompanied by Mr Tyas Kastelijn (Commercial Manager) & Mr Cedric Tack (Communication Officer) explaining us the facilities and developments in both of the projects. 

The training complex and stadium reconstruction are both part of the grand project to increase the professionalism within the club but also to generate a higher ROI. The training complex will mainly focus on gaining better sportive achievements while the stadium will boost the financial results of the club. We had the chance to interview Mr Pieter-Jan Vanschamelhout to explain us some of the details related to the new complex and the different phases in the stadium project. Mr Vanschamelhout is Stadium Manager and is mainly responsible for the logistics and daily operations of all facilities at the club. This contains four major areas, the stadium, training centre, boarding school for young players and the apartments for the first team players. 

Training centre

Could you give a description of the training centre with all its facilities?

The entire complex can be divided in three major departments: the first team section, the youth section and the leisure section.

The first team area includes:

  • Showers: players (with regulated ice bath) & management staff
  • Offices management
  • Dressing room
  • Resting area
  • Kitchen
  • Dorm
  • Laundry room
  • Gym
  • Massage room
  • Supply room

Everything in the centre is built bearing functionality in mind. The supply room, where they can storage their shoes, is leading directly to the training grounds so no dirt or mud gets inside the building, while the supply room is directly connected to the doctor/massage office in case a player injures himself on the training ground.

The youth divisions have more or less the same facilities but with less luxurious equipment, although still holding up to high standards. The dressing rooms are also designed to match the age. A younger team will get a smaller dressing room and the size of the room will increase with the age of the team.

The leisure section exists out of a running track to exercise and a bar where people can have a drink or order a snack (the youth teams will also have their meals here). The bar gives visitors a perfect sight of all surrounding playing fields to increase engagement with the fans. During the summer there will also be a terrace at the disposal of the visitors where they can also relax and watch training sessions.

Again we see that the entire complex was built to be functional and cost efficient. To give an example, the kitchen is placed between the first team resting area and the bar so it can both be used for the first team on one side and youth & visitors on the other side. To make sure no unauthorized personnel enters the centre, Zulte Waregem has equipped the entire building with fingerprint locks, evading the risk of people losing keys or badges.  

How did you finance the construction?

The city paid for the first part of the construction and the roof, while the club paid for all the facilities and finishing touches of the complex. 

What other training centres did you use as benchmarks?

We had to think about clubs who were more or less on our level and also keep track on our budget. Finally we visited multiple clubs’ training centres as benchmarks with the likes of Mainz, Le Mans, Lille, Ajax and Vitesse. 

What were your main responsibilities during the construction?

During the initial phase of the project we assembled a team of experts from all different sectors and partners. This was necessary to gain different perspectives from all departments: first team, youth, marketing, operations, etc. My job was to be the center point of contact and make sure everybody was on board. 



When did you first think of the idea of investing in a new training centre?

The project came up a few years ago but due to the high investment costs and the troubling economic times, the idea was put on hold. Thanks to our persistent and passionate coach, the project was reintroduced and the necessary measures were taken. Only 10 months later construction was finished and the training centre was ready for use.

What were the main goals you had in sight when developing this project?

  • First of all we wanted to increase the quality of our current youth system. We understand that investing in young talents is becoming more important in a market which is becoming more competitive every year
  • Secondly we want our first team to deliver better results. With this facility at our disposal they are more motivated to come and train at the club, spend extra hours and be proud to train here
  • Last but not least, it is also easier to attract better players if you can offer them better facilities than other clubs


Stadium upgrade

The entire reconstruction of the stadium exists out of different stages. How many stages are there and what are the exact details of every stage?

The entire stadium will be redeveloped in four stages, the first stage has already been realised while we expect the entire project to be completed by 2018. 

Stage 1

Like mentioned before, the first upgrade has already been realised. It involves a total reconstruction of side D and also includes the visitor’s section, with a capacity of 962 seats we are following the regulations to play in European competitions. Besides the new stands we also improved our playing field. We used to have a running track around the pitch but due to the distance between the fans and players, and the fact that our pitch was to small to play European football we decided to remove the track and extend the pitch towards the stands.

Stage 2

We are currently working on the second phase and will hopefully be completed by May 2016 before the start of the play-offs. Side B will become the new stands for the die-hard fans that need to bring the atmosphere. It will have a capacity of 2200 seats and a canteen. We are looking at the possibility to make this stands a public place so fans and other visitors can also enjoy some drinks, a meal or just visit the stadium during the week although nothing is confirmed there.                                 

Stage 3

The third phase will take on one of the long-sides of the stadium, tribune three on side C. The roof will be replaced and the entire back building will be expanded. This extra space will be used for commercial activities and terraces. For example, the fan shop will be placed in this part of the stadium, which will be part of the entire experience when visiting the stadium.

Stage 4

The fourth and last stage of the stadium reconstruction will take on side-A. The new stands will have a big glass screen to cover all the 27 skyboxes that will be put into place, giving them a clear view of the pitch.  

After this fourth and final stage, the entire stadium will enter a new level of entertainment and fan experience. The total capacity will be between 14.000 and 14.500 seats and the purpose is to make it an entire business centre where companies can have their work areas or meetings but also have their meals during the day. The stadium needs to be operative seven days a week to make it a more solid investment. 

Some numbers and facts to go with the construction of the new stadium:

  • Price €27 million
  • Round shape
  • 13.000 seats or 12.000 seats and 1400 standing places
  • 200 handicap spaces and 962 visitor seats
  • 27 skyboxes
  • 1200 m2 office-space
  • 855 m2 commercial area
  • 590 m2 restaurant for business
  • Bowling and fitness
  • 16 food stands in tribune D, CD and B
  • New fanshop
  • Modern facilities for the players
  • All canteens are connected with each other due to a passage through the stadium
  • No fence around the stadium
  • Sustainable stadium: lighting on the edge of the roof, solar protection, water recuperation, led-lighting, no noise due to enclosed stadium

Why did you choose to develop the stadium in phases?

The most important reason was for us to keep playing football. We didn’t have many options to play in another stadium, especially when thinking about the fans, how they would travel there.

The advantage of building in different stages is also the fact that you can adjust when encountering problems. If the budget is tight in some specific phase you can always adapt the next one so the ending balance is still the same. But also practical problems that you encounter in an earlier stage can be handled more smoothly in later on in the project. This knowhow can save time and money. Especially for smaller clubs who do not have millions at their disposal, this is an attractive approach. 

Did you invest in hospitality and fan experience?

Our desire was to bring comfort but on a basic level. By this I mean that we invested in good and proper toilet facilities, making sure every visitor has enough leg space, that there are enough exits/entrances for the fans to come and go to the stadium in very short timespan. We wanted all visitors have a good and clear view of the pitch and that the audio and acoustics are amazing inside the stadium. The reason why we chose this is because of the fact that nobody will cares if you have free Wi-Fi everywhere if the toilets are old and dirty. We can always build further on this basic comfort.

Who took part in the development and construction of the new stadium?

To explain who took part we first have to take a look at how the initial developments went. The entire project can be divided in two major moments: the first one was where the club SV Zulte Waregem went to the city in order to get a new stadium; the city placed the request on a public forum for architects and builders to take on this project. However, the cost of doing business this way was to high and this road was abandoned.

After that the club decided to take matters into their own hands. The club made up a budget, contacted the architect from the initial phase but also included the fans and other stakeholders into the talks surrounding the new stadium project. The entire plan came together pretty quick and was delivered to the city, they agreed and the rest is history.



If there were one tip you would like to give to other football clubs who are considering redeveloping their stadium, what would it be?

Make sure you stay in charge of your own stadium!

Read more about stadiums in development in Belgium here or visit the SV Zulte Waregeme profile on the ESSMA Website.


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