Score one for the fans. Every time a new sports stadium is built, project leaders are pushed to deliver bigger, bolder and more dramatic results. Consider the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, with its color-changing façade; or the Float at Marina Bay in Singapore that sits atop 200 pontoons that face a 30,000-seat grandstand; or the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA featuring a high-definition video screen display spanning 23,040 square feet (2,140 square meters). That’s the equivalent of 4,920 52-inch (132-centimeter) TVs put together. (The project to build the Texas stadium was a 2010 PMI Project of the Year finalist.)
These stadiums garner lots of fan excitement and media attention, but they can be brutal on project teams facing tight deadlines built around an upcoming season or global sporting event. “You cannot delay the competition, and fans don’t like it when you have to move the opening game to another venue,” says Ben Veenbrink, founder and managing director of The Stadium Consultancy in Naarden, the Netherlands.
When stakeholders can’t agree on design elements or set unrealistic expectations for delivery, project leaders can find themselves negotiating what can be accomplished in the mandated time frame and available budget. That can be a complicated process: These projects have a variety of stakeholders, including team owners, facility owners, retailers, neighbors, the public, local regulators and team fans, Mr. Veenbrink says. “Communication and decision-making gets extremely complicated. Stakeholder management is crucial.”
The result of this complexity is often missed deadlines and added costs. In 2016 alone, multiple stadium projects have been criticized for failing to meet deadlines on both new construction and renovations. In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Olympics, construction of vital stadium infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil continued to flounder due to funding shortages, political tension and allegations of corruption among the country’s major construction firms.
Similarly, the US$500 million upgrade to New Miami Stadium in Miami, Florida, USA was way behind schedule leading up to the 2016 American football season, forcing contractors to work around the clock since the beginning of the year to accommodate the tight two-year schedule. “It’s one of the most difficult [projects I’ve ever undertaken],” the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross told reporters in May. “Putting up such a complex structure in such a short period of time stresses everybody. There’s no room for error.”
Delays are particularly common on stadium projects when stakeholders are slow to make decisions; that can make it impossible to meet event deadline goals, Mr. Veenbrink says. Some project owners push through construction by hiring more workers and running sites 24/7, while others are forced to reduce project scope. In an extreme example, Qatar’s government cut the number of stadiums to be renovated or constructed for the 2022 World Cup from 12 to eight after acknowledging looming scheduling problems.
Ron Alexander understands the pressures stadium project teams face. In June 2011, the Western Australian state government committed to delivering a new stadium in the city of Perth, with construction to commence by 2014. “This gave the project team the huge task of developing the project definition plans for both the stadium and its transport solutions and procuring the contractors … all within a three-year period,” says Mr. Alexander, director general of the Department of Sport and Recreation and joint chairman of the Perth Stadium Steering Committee in Perth, Australia.
The project team for the roughly AU$1 billion, 60,000-seat stadium undertook a year of planning that included benchmarking other stadiums and working with nine user groups to define design requirements and the best procurement models. After a detailed analysis, the team chose a design-build-finance-maintain model via a public-private partnership for the stadium and its surrounding sports precinct to balance project cost and risk with the achievement of the project objectives. “It was the procurement structure most likely to maximize value-for-money outcomes for the state government and the taxpayer,” he says. The project is on track to open in early 2018 as scheduled.
Such careful planning and stakeholder management can help stadium project leaders mitigate many of the risks that cause delays, which is critical on massive multibillion dollar projects. Says Mr. Veenbrink: “Projects don’t fail at the end—they fail at the beginning because people don’t properly prepare.” —Sarah Fister Gale
To keep costs down and fans happy, stadium project teams are adopting unique approaches.
PUSKÁS FERENC STADIUM
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Cost: €114 million
Unique approach: Contractors plan to reuse 40,000 cubic meters (1.4 million cubic feet) of concrete from the city’s demolished previous stadium to construct the new facility.
CITY OF CHAMPIONS STADIUM
Location: Inglewood, California, USA
Cost: US$2.6 billion
Unique approach: A 19-acre (7.7-hectacre) transparent canopy will cover the entire stadium.
AL WAKRAH STADIUM
Location: Al Wukair, Qatar
Cost: US$286 million
Unique approach: To combat temperatures reaching 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), the team leveraged microclimate analysis to maximize natural airflow and shade in addition to traditional mechanical cooling.