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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Nihondaira to be Expanded?

Well, bad news of players being sold aside, there is some very exciting news coming from the S-Pulse boardroom. A release last Friday detailed the desire club president Hayao Iwakawa holds to improve access to, increase facilities and car parking provision for, and ultimately raise the capacity of our beautiful home, Nihondaira Stadium.

Take a good look, this could be several thousand seats bigger next time you see it!

As reported elsewhere, 2008 brought S-Pulse's biggest average gate for 12 years, with the stands being on average 82.1% full for each home game. This is figure second only in the J. League to Albirex Niigata who attract just under 35000 a week to their 43000 seater Big Swan Stadium. S-Pulse are in discussions with stadium owners Shizuoka City, and while the city are toeing a "we're not saying yes, but we're not saying no" line at present, Iwakawa sounded bullish in his belief the plans would come to fruition. In addition to frequently selling out many areas of the ground each game, the club cited it's ambitions in continental competitions as a spur to growth. You can never stand still in this game, and our president knows that.

Regardless of the status of the project, that the board is thinking and planning in such a manner is great news for fans, the city, and the competitiveness of S-Pulse in the J. League. Anyone who went to 'Daira this year will know any crowd over 18000 (of which there were a lot) means hundreds of people left standing around in aisles and at the back of the stands. I don't doubt that some of these people are not going to come back to a ground they can't get a seat in, so I agree 100% that an increased capacity is needed. More fans, more money, less need to sell players, and those four extra points needed to get into the ACL are won. It all looks pretty simple in black and white, doesn't it. :)

So where could an extended capacity / improved access be incorporated? Let's get our speculation caps on and have a look:
Access is hoped to be improved, but probably not by my road! :-D

Quite where the improved access is going to come from is something I'm not too sure about. There's currently the one road which runs up to the ground, and I can't see how it can be improved in any meaningful way. They may have a whole other plan, though, (probably nothing like my idea above!) so for now I'll stick to something I can readily image, and that's stand extensions.

Now I'm no architect, but I can see two areas which could be enlarged, and that's, as labelled above, the main stand and The Kop. There is a large amount of open space behind The Kop in particular which has potential for development / an improved bus rotary / car parking etc. If I had a wish, I'd also request a roof for this stand. Rain puts people off in their thousands, and a roof would also help keep in the awesome noise we generate each week.

Behind The Kop, Nihondaira

The other option as far as I can see would be the main stand being extended back. The current ellipse shape is charming, no question, but a more angular design would add several hundred onto the capacity, while a second tier would add several thousand... OK, maybe I'm getting carried away, but it's not completely beyond the realms of possibility, and several other fans have mentioned the same thing. For the most part, I'm just made up that our owners have belief and confidence in the future of our stadium, and not only that, they are determined to give us a home to do us justice that is home. Ecopa is great and all, but an hour journey for a home game is no fun.

The view behind the main stand. Ample room for expansion, surely! :-)

That S-Pulse are committed not to take the easy option and rely on a bigger stadium so far away is massively encouraging to hear. That they want to instead work to make Nihondaira realise it's full potential as a top football venue in Japan is great for Shimizu and Shizuoka. Shizuoka City is famed for it's connection with all things football, and with S-Pulse on the edge of greatness, come on Shiz City bods - let's work together and make the leap from a 4th placed team to a true title contending outfit!

We Believe!