An array of fins will now ensconce FC Cincinnati’s soccer field, to be called the West End Stadium, after a total redesign from stadia specialists Populous that replaces the ETFE pillow facade previously proposed for the project.
A total of 513 fins—a total of 5.4 miles—will be used to wrap stadium‘s facade, angled incrementally to create an undulating wave formation on the exterior (513 also happens to be Cincinnati’s telephone code number). Each fin will be approximately two-to-three inches wide and 18 inches deep, situated in a way to provide a view into the stadium when viewed head-on and a more solid appearance when viewed down the length of the building’s façade.
As with the previous incarnation of the stadium, which was designed by a team lead by Meis Architects, LED lighting has been proposed. With Populous’ design, LEDs will illuminate each fin, allowing the stadium to glow at night for events, and will most likely be blue and orange as per FC Cincinnati’s jersey colors. To make this happen, the LED lighting system will be integrated into the leading edge of each vertical element to create ambient light and experiential graphics predominantly along the building’s eastern-facing facade. Lighting operators will have to be careful not to follow in the footsteps of Bayern Munich FC in Germany, where multiple car accidents have been caused by the changing colors of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Allianz Arena’s ETFE facade. FC Cincinnati’s west facade, on the other hand, will utilize more glazing in order to balance the relationship to the surrounding neighborhood.
When asked why the team was changing direction in realizing the new stadium, an FC Cincinnati representative provided the following statement:
“Meis’ designs provided a great foundation for us and got us going down a design path that would deliver Cincinnati a truly unique stadium, which was important to us and one of the goals of this project. However, as we reached a critical point in our construction path, we decided to bring in Populous who had far greater resources behind them to ensure the project met ownership’s goals of delivering a state-of-the-art stadium on-time, on-budget and with an iconic look and feel.”
“Our goal was to create the jewel of the Queen City’s crown,” Jonathan Mallie, a partner at Populous who led the current project’s design, told The Architect’s Newspaper. “The twisting motion of the vertically expressed fins speaks to the dynamics of the match and the tension between the two teams about to take to the pitch.”
Six entrance gates have been proposed for the stadium, though the main staircase will take Orange and Blue fans on a grand precession from Central Parkway, rising 30 feet in the process. “Several MLS teams have unique traditions —FC Cincinnati’s supporters have an incredible march to the match,” said Mallie. “Their energy builds as fans approach the stadium. We were captivated by their presence – you hear the noise, you see vibrant orange and blue, you sense their excitement and passion for the team. Our aim… was to funnel the energy of the fan base as it ascends up the plaza staircase and underneath the exterior façade which gently hovers above.”
This atmosphere will be brought into and enhanced inside the stadium, too. Space has been allocated for 3,100 safe-standing seats in The Bailey, a designated home fan section that spans the stadium’s entire north end. More lessons from Germany: safe standing has proved to be hugely successful, particularly in the case of Borussia Dortmund, where the spectacle of a “yellow wall” can be observed on match days. If you can, go, it’s truly exhilarating. FC Cincinnati’s decision to integrate safe standing is a progressive move, one that admittedly won’t match Dortmund but will go a long way to bolstering the oh-so cherished stadium atmosphere.
Even those sitting down can get in on the action, as the closest seat will be just 15 feet from the playing field, with the furthest being 130 feet away in the upper tier. The total stadium capacity has yet to be finalized but will be around 26,000, with every seat being protected by a canopy roof.
FC Cincinnati was founded in 2016. In a sign of remarkable progress, the West End Stadium is scheduled to open in March 2021, even with the design team switch.