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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Next Stop Higashi Shizuoka...

Barry Barry writes

Alight here for Shimizu S-Pulse.

In a few years time, is that likely to be the announcement for trains passing through Shizuoka? Maybe, because S-Pulse's investigations into a location for a new stadium have highlighted an open piece of land beside Higashi Shizuoka JR station. When I say beside I mean slap bang next to. You exit the steps and you're there. It makes Sagan's ground seem a trek from the station.

While nothing is yet decided, two things we do know is that S-Pulse want to build a new home (I agree), and this city owned land is earmarked for development. So let me introduce Higashi Shizuoka. 
1 Shizuoka Station
2 Nihondaira Stadium
3 Shimizu Station
4 Miho Club HQ
5 Higashi Shizuoka Station
Since the turn of the century this part of town, a 30 minute walk, 3 minutes by train, or 6 by the local Shizutetsu Line, has been rapidly developed as a new commercial district. It was one of the areas put forward to house Shizuoka prefecture's world cup stadium, the ground that would eventually become Ecopa. Compare the middle of the two images below for how the area has come on in a few years:
 2004
2012
  1 Higashi Shizuoka Station
2 Huge Shopping Mall
3 Naganuma Station (local line)
4 Vacant Land
 
The JR station opened in 1998, and was constructed to be future proof with concourses and travellators more reminiscent of an airport. The station could certainly handle match day crowds. Coupled with major roads running either side of the station, no small amount of car parking, and the smaller local line station a five minute walk away, an infrastructure appears in place. The area is as central a spot as is possible, the polar opposite of Nihondaira. That many Shizuokan's can't find Nihondaira on a map is a restraint on S-Pulse's potential. The club are aware of this and eager to put it right.

My one concern with the land is the size. It has always struck me as too tight to fit a decent sized stadium.
150 metres in length, after the pitch you're left with around 20 metres for each end stand. Not impossible, but most modern stadia end stand footprints far exceed that. Indeed, Nihondaira's ends measure just under 30 metres in depth. Unless construction is designed to extend beyond the site's limitations it's hard to envisage the space being there.
But of course, I'm not an architect. I've not constructed a football stadium that wasn't made out of Lego. If there's a way it can be done, Japanese engineers will find a way.

The location is fantastic. In the the heart of Shizuoka, it's passed by the Shinkansen and would be seen by thousands of people every day. Like Nihondaira, it too boasts a view of Mt. Fuji. The huge Mark Is shopping centre is next door, as are several other food and drink establishments, providing fans with a post match reason to disperse gradually.

For the club's profile and position in the hearts and minds of the city's three quarters of a million residents it would provide an invaluable boost. Questions of funding, capital, and genuine feasibility are for the months to come, with the fate of the land set to be decided in March. Until then it's an unquestionably exciting future to ponder.

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