The a-Maze-ing future of stadiums

This report on the ‘stadiums of the future’ might provide some food for thought for the people working on the Maze stadum proposals.

“The big change that’s happened in recent years, and will be a real change in the next 20, is that city planners have started to realise how important stadiums are in city centres,” an internationally-renowned architect and leading expert on stadium design told us.

There’s more on the BBC World Service’s Culture Shock programme

  • Yokel

    I’m not sure about this whole national stadium lark at all…whats the point really.

  • pid

    Not sure a “national” stadium is the correct term .
    “National” stadiums usually require “Nations”.

    Thank God Bertie wasn’t allowed to build out in the wastes of west Dublin. No pubs, no transport links, no atmosphere.

    Build it in Belfast, for God’s sake.

  • “city planners have started to realise”

    Perhaps the city planners would be so kind as to let our friends at the NIO know.

  • Nestor Makhno

    “city planners have started to realise”

    beano: Perhaps the city planners would be so kind as to let our friends at the NIO know.

    This is not news – planners at Belfast City Council (and every other expert they may have asked) HAVE been telling the NIO that stadiums are important to city centres (and Belfast city centre needs as much help as possible).

    The opposite is of course equally true – a Northern Ireland stadium needs a critical mass of population nearby – or some form of cheap mass transit to get them to it. The Maze has neither.

  • joeCanuck

    Nestor you have hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph.
    Either they should build a rapid mass transit system to it or else put it close to the city centre.
    Toronto Rodger’s Cente (former Skydome) comes to mind.
    Some people wanted to build it out in the boondocks but it ended up smack in the city centre.
    Mind you, the public got taken to the cleaners by the builders but that’s another story.

  • Crataegus

    Developers, building professionals etc overwhelmingly believe the site should be in central Belfast.(At least any I have talked to) This one really is a no brainer. After the match what do you do? Go round to the Pub, have a meal, perhaps of for a good nights celebrations? What is there to do out at the Maze on a wet winter’s night?

    Also we need a large population to use the facility and ancillary services, if this doesn’t happen it is a white elephant. Its common sense at P7 level (or lower).

    If I had the time I am sure I could come up with a dozen potential sites in Belfast. The maze would make a good housing site, sell it off, make a profit, and do this properly.

  • joeCanuck

    Right on Crataegus

    Toronto’s stadium was built in a rundown city centre area (old railway yards) and the area has thrived ever since with a plethora of new bars and restaurants, new hotels etc.


    Mick “To hyperlink use: [a href=“http://Internet URL goes here”]text the visitor sees[/a]. Then change [&] to < &>.” didn’t work 🙁

  • frank

    As long as a ‘neutral’ area can be found to build a 42k stadium in Belfast, it should work.

    Musgrave playing fields would fit most of the criteria – size, venue, transport, rail etc..

  • network

    Maysfield is to small to build a stadium that could accomodate 40000+ supporters.

    The North foreshore would be just like the Maze, surrounded by warehouses and dead in the evenings and weekends, and no bars ,restaurants, facilities etc..not very accessable from the centre of town.

    The plans for the Ormeau park are for a 20-25k stadium – thats to small to accomodate all three codes + a less than nuetral environment.

    Would the titanic quarter not be too xpensive to buy the land and has it not already been zoned for housing and retail etc… + less than nuetral in East Belfast.

    Frank’s idea about The Musgrave site sounds interesting.

    Did the head of Ulster Rugby not say a while back that the URFU were against a stadium being built in Belfast ?

  • Michael Robinson

    “Did the head of Ulster Rugby not say a while back that the URFU were against a stadium being built in Belfast ?”

    No – in []this Q&A session[/url] , Mike Reid, the Ulster rugby CEO said: “Rugby has always highlighted Belfast as its preferred option and this remains the case. We have spoken to Belfast City Council but if Government only want to consider the Maze after the economic assessment and Belfast city council have no plans to develop a site themselves or with an individual sport, then we will remain involved with the Government backed project.”

    There has been a subsequent statement from the IRFU that also gave qualified support to the Maze to the effect that if it is built, rugby may use it if it makes economic sense, but certainly didn’t rule out other options either.

  • Crataegus

    In the past I have been involved in writing appraisals for government bodies, often it works in reverse order, what’s the outcome we need to arrive at and structure the report accordingly. The decision has been taken prior to the report which is basically window dressing.

    This is the sort of venture that comes along once in a life time. It is essential to get the right site before spending a penny.

    The Ormeau and Maysfield sites would be excellent don’t forget you can build over rail lines and rivers and roads along river banks can be moved. The Roads Service are not omnipotent. Where there is a will there is a way.

    Imagine a large stadium at say Maysfield built over the river with walkways restaurants and cafes. The whole complex connected into the railway station perhaps with new foot bridges across to Lagan to Ormeau. Mass car parking for peak demand doesn’t have to be right beside the stadium. Maximise the useful land use and encourage the use of public transport. It would tie in the Gasworks development with the Hilton area and at least service businesses if they set up may get some trade. Who wouldn’t go to a restaurant that looks along the Lagan?

    Forget the Maze it’s a pox of a place. When you look at the Belfast Metropolitan Plan the Maze site is described as of ‘Regional Importance’(if memory serves me right) Because the Government owns a site doesn’t make it any more important than the cow field next door, but suppose the document had to say otherwise, just like report writing conclusion before reason.

    It’s not of Regional importance, at best it is a good housing site or should that be condoned in the countryside because the government owns it?

    Anything build out there would be the architectural equivalent of a little chef motorway halt.

    Build a stunner on a prime site in the middle of Belfast. Something that everyone can be proud of, show some foresight, and get on with it. It’s so obvious.

  • joeCanuck


    You don’t need to “find” a neutral site.
    Create one.
    As close to the city centre as possible.

  • Doctor Who

    If you ever vist the Millenium Stadium on the edge of Cardiff City centre you will be amazed at how little area the spectacle takes up.

    This is a 85k stadium with a modern design, there can be no excuse for not finding a sight in Belfast City Centre to build a stadium for 40K.

    Say NO to the Maze.

  • joeCanuck

    Doctor Who

    You’re right.
    If you rely on public transport, you don’t need huge carparks and such a stadium would not take that much room.
    Don’t let them build it at the Maze.

  • Crataegus

    The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff is a superb building, which holds 74500 spectators, cost 126 million of which 80 million was from the private sector. Used for sport and pop concerts complete with a retractable roof. Great value for money just imagine that down by the Millfield site then think of it out at the maze among the sheep and cattle. BAAAH BAAAAAH MOOOO

  • sport for all

    The problem is that the football team have only recently managed to get a crowd of 12,000 for a home game (excluding away support), prior to that they were only able to attract crowds of 6,000 to a home game.

    Ulster Rugby & the GAA attract far bigger crowds to games, surely the majority supported sports in Northern Ireland should have a bigger say in the positioning of the stadium.

    A few thousand should not dictate the future of sport in the country.

    The URFU & the GAA are supporting the Maze stadium so lets go for it.

    The 4 main political parties also support the Maze stadium (wow, agree), so lets build a stadium for ALL the fans.

  • JimBob

    Do the GAA or URFU really give a toss? The GAA have a couple of good stadia in Ulster already. Big games go to Croker. The URFU wanted to redevelop Ravenhill last I heard.

    Couldn’t the northern Ireland Rangers team find a more suitable venue to play soccer e.g. the grassy area out the back of the PEC at Queens. You could fit about 150 deck chairs out there no bother easily satisfying their requirements. And its handy to the Village and Lisburn Road areas for the supporters.

  • Crataegus


    If I said to you I am going to give you £1000 but it’s in English Bank notes you would agree. In the same way people support the Maze because the government are driving that proposal, they have their motives. If I could suggest that there are considerations that are wider than sport. They relate to;

    1The long term financial viability of the project.
    2Planning policy.
    3Transport Policy.
    5Economic Development and Tourism.
    6Maximising usage.

    This is the sort of development where you need to weigh up the need and if it exists do it properly and try to maximise the opportunity for fringe services. The fringe activities are essential to ensure the long term financial viability. If you don’t do that you might as well build a mausoleum.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Surely there’s enough derelict land near a ‘peace’ wall in (North?) Belfast. Tear down the wall, build a stadium which all can use. No need for the wall and great potential for regenerating a rundown area.

    As for political parties or sports organisations they have often narrow agendas – if the FAI and Fianna Fáil had their way, we’d have two white elephants in the Dublin burbs accessible only by car.

    Compare the atmosphere in the area around the likes of Stade de France and Sydney Homebush, 2 stadia built in the middle of nowhere with Lansdowne & Croker where people can walk out from the city centre on big match days – it’s no contest.

  • Crataegus

    Tochais Siorai

    Good examples and totally agree. There are quite a few potential sites if you are prepared to move or close a few roads, but if at the Maze it will require major roadwork’s anyway.

    £20,000,000-£30,000,000 on roads, at a guess, plus a rail link which will never happen. Then there is the ancillary site costs, landscaping, paving, the drainage and sewerage infra structure, the cost of the stadium and it all adds up to a lot of money to risk, and in the end what do you achieve.? A Stadium with a vast surface for car parking and a good view of the surrounding fields.

    If as you propose we would extend the city centre commercial area out a bit; solve a few problems and do considerable good. If we were really clever we could regenerate an area that is currently virtually hopeless. Where is the problem?

    There was an army base in what used to be a Park behind the Crumlin Road jail, is it still in use?

    The Government probably has its own agenda as usual, government of the people for the few. New Labour. Wonder why they would want to develop a site like the Maze??

  • joeCanuck

    Tochais Siorai

    You’ve just brought back some happy memories for me.
    I live in Canada, out in the country, about 3 miles from the nearest town, and as I have a heart condition, I rarely, (although occasionaly), walk into town.
    But when I lived in Belfast in the late 60’s, near Balmoral, on a nice day I would walk to work on the Albertbridge road, 30 minutes or so. I really enjoyed those walks. I can certainly imagine walking to a game or a concert with a pal or two
    to a stadium in the city centre. It is crazy to think of building it out in the country.
    Is the Maze a done deal or can it be stopped?

  • DK

    “a Northern Ireland stadium needs a critical mass of population nearby – or some form of cheap mass transit to get them to it. The Maze has neither.”

    The Maze can be seen from the motorway, surely there will be a slip road to it.
    It is, at most, 20 minutes drive from Belfast and North Armagh.

    Imagine the congestion if it was put in the city centre somewhere. The Odyssey can cause enough congestion and it is a very small venue by comparison.

  • Crataegus


    What about our commitments to reduce dependence on road transport?

    The stadiums in Dublin seem to work and if well located so would a stadium in Belfast as many will arrive by public transport so they can celebrate afterwards.

    If at the Maze the majority will arrive by car so the potential traffic problem out by Sprucefield is much worse as they all try to get off the motorway and into the car park. Equally getting away again after the match may take a while. Imagine also the route for those coming up on the Dublin Road, potential nightmare as you approach Hillsborough and Lisburn.

    It isn’t just a slip road that would be needed. A slip road could only serve one direction on the motorway, cars getting from Belfast have to get across the motorway as would those from Dublin. It will be necessary to buy additional land even just for the slip road. It is a serious road scheme and could cost as much as the Stadium!!


    I think it is a done deal unless the major potential users told the Government they were not going to use it. From what I have heard they are less than enthusiastic, but if someone offered you a stadium are you going to quibble about the detail?

    The proposal is for a stadium and village with pubs a hotel etc. and 1500 houses. At that location the problem is for the scheme to work there would need to be enough other entertainment and attractions for the Pubs etc in themselves are not going to generate enough trade on their own. So you then start thinking Cinemas and shops and that will draw yet more trade from the centre of Lisburn.

    Belfast is the ideal location as there are already lots of ancillary businesses, Road, Rail, Bus and Air links. The risk is much smaller and it will integrate into the city and when closed the surrounding area will not look like a cemetery.

    From the government point of view they own the Maze site and therefore have a vested interest. They are seeking approval for 1500 houses at say £30,000 – £50,000 a site which should raise at least £45million and then in addition there are the commercial sites. Develop the site, sort out the H Block and all seems fine. However if I were a private person owning that same ground would I get permission for thousands of houses? Ignoring that issue would a better option not be to use basically the whole site for housing and maximise the financial gain which can be used elsewhere? Benefit twice and turn money over twice?

  • joeCanuck

    How environmentally friendly DK.

    20,000 cars driving out there instead of thousands of people walking and the transport authority putting on extra buses to get people to the suburbs like they do in real world class cities.

  • DK


    You seem to think that only people in Belfast will use this stadium. Most people live outside Belfast. Also, I believe that busses can be used probably easier out of the city centre than in it, where they will merely add to the usual city trafic. People won’t walk anyway – especially when it rains, unless they live within a few minutes of it.

  • Lafcadio

    DK – I was at the Heineken Cup final recently, a 75000 sell-out at the Millenium Stadium (i.e. a city centre stadium) and was amazed by the ease of access – when I’ve been there for big matches they pedestrianise the surrounding streets and run an efficient park and ride scheme. I left shortly after the match and within half an hour was well on my way home on the M4.

    “Most people live outside Belfast..” – a lot more people live outside the Maze!! Regardless of where it’s situated, on a handful of days a year, there will be some traffic implications – however in the scheme of things, I don’t see this as insurmountable in Belfast, with some decent planning and organisation.

  • joeCanuck


    I maybe wrong but I think more than half the population of N.I. live within 20 miles of Belfast city centre.
    As an example of the benefits of having a stadium in the city centre, I can cite North American examples.
    Toronto’s stadium, which can hold 50,000, regularly gets 25,000 for baseball matches (it used to sell out 12 years ago before a stupid strike between the millionaire owners and the millionaire players turned a lot of fans off.) It sells out rapidly (hours) for major concerts (Stones, U2 etc).
    Similar stadia in the USA outside city centres are very lucky indeed to get 10,000 spectators for a major league baseball game and it’s not too difficult to get tickets for a big concert.

  • Aaron_Scullion

    Similar stadia in the USA outside city centres are very lucky indeed to get 10,000 spectators for a major league baseball game and it’s not too difficult to get tickets for a big concert.

    what a generalisation..

  • joeCanuck

    No it’s not Aaron

    I have been unable to get tickets for concerts in Toronto on the day they have been issued but, for example, I was able to get good seats for a U2 concert in buffalo last december a month after they were issued.
    You can walk into a Detroit baseball game 10 minutes before the game starts and get seats behind home plate (I’ve done it).

  • Tochais Siorai

    My own fave as to what can be done in a relatively small space in an urban setting is at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Have a look….

  • Tochais Siorai

    Sorry. Left out a bit, this should work.

  • Crataegus

    Tochais Siorai

    Looks good to me.

    Fancy the area behind the Cathedral and College of Art: Little Patrick Street, Little York Street, Nelson Street? A bit of Roads works needed but nothing like the Maze and the Roads in that area need to be rationalised anyway. Would give a real boost to the Cathedral Quarter the embryo Arts Community and the benefit would spread out along York Road. The Sewerage and Electricity infra structure are there, 2 Rail stations when the Customs House Square station opens, plus good links to the Motorway network.

    By comparison any jack ass can build on a field.