Wildly Ambitious Plan Makes Saudi Stadium One Big Experiential Display

January 19, 2024 by Dave Haynes

We’ve seen ambitious sports and entertainment stadiums go up in recent years that made LED displays – like halos in Atlanta and LA – a big part of the design and venue experience, but here’s a somewhat mind-blowing plan for a new stadium in Saudi Arabia that sees much of the building inside and out clad in LED lighting and display technology.

A Saudi investment fund – Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC) – has revealed the design for the Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Stadium, a multi-use venue to be built in a city about 40 minutes outside of Riyadh. Given that the stadium is named after MBS, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, there’s a pretty good chance this is more than a wild idea … and will get built.

Another indicator of the likelihood is that the design was done by Populous, the architecture firm that has designed iconic sports venues all over the world. So this well past the idea stage.

From PR:

Located in Qiddiya City, atop the breathtaking 200m-high Tuwaiq cliff and just 40 minutes from Riyadh, this futuristic venue is anticipated to become a must-visit destination. It aims to draw visitors from across the globe and revolutionise the traditional stadium experience with its immersive design and unique technological features. It is anticipated to host some of Saudi Arabia’s biggest sports, entertainment and cultural events.

The stadium is set to be the world’s first fully integrated venue with a combined retractable roof, pitch and LED wall – an architectural innovation offering unparalleled versatility and allowing the space to transform into different ‘event modes’ in a matter of hours. This LED wall will be a portal to live event broadcasts, high-definition films and laser shows, offering guests a novel, immersive experience with each visit. When not activated, it will open to reveal breathtaking views of Qiddiya City.

Here’s a video:

Guests will be able to enjoy multiple spectacles in a single day, including football, boxing, esports, concerts and theatre performances to name a few. The stadium will employ cutting-edge technology to provide fans with instant access to live data and information including the use of state-of-the-art technology such as HoloBox, enabling virtual interactions with celebrities and stars.

As a central venue in an urban entertainment district, this uniquely versatile space promises an extended play experience with direct and convenient access to Qiddiya City’s vibrant Gaming & Esport District, as well as other city entertainment options. Integrated into the city fabric through a variety of transportation choices including park ’n ride and drop-off zones, the stadium is also within direct proximity to 50,000 square meters of shopping, dining and entertainment spaces as well as hotel options.

The 45-000 seat multi-functional stadium is fully compliant with FIFA requirements for club and international competition. Once open, it will serve as the home ground of Saudi Pro League football clubs Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr and is one of the proposed venues for the Kingdom’s 2034 FIFA World Cup bid. It is also poised to host some of the region’s biggest sports events including the Saudi King Cup, the Asian Cup and possibly the 2034 Asian Games.

There will be an estimated 7.6 million annual visits to the stadium, which will be able to host events all year-round in its climate-controlled facilities, where energy consumption will be reduced through an eco-friendly cooling lake built directly under the stadium. The lake will use rainwater capture from the stadium and the surrounding area to pre-cool the air conditioning system.

“In designing this flagship venue, we were inspired both by the clifftop location, and the innovation and ‘Play Life’ ethos of Qiddiya,” says Rhys Courtney, Senior Principal and Project Lead for the stadium. “The stadium exterior is formed by a collection of modular cubes that act as an extension of the Tuwaiq cliff, framed by portals that glimpse into the future of the city. The stadium spans the height of the cliff to connect the upper plateau and the Gaming & Esports district, to the lower plateau and theme parks below.”

“The cubes and portals spill down the cliff to create a massive digital canvas that interacts with users at different scales, from street-level vistas to the three-sided seating bowl experience, to citywide views – transcending the stadium typology. The central stadium is encircled by towers creating a 365-day mixed use sports and entertainment precinct forming hierarchies of space and activation. A covered, mixed-reality street runs between the stadium and surrounding towers to circulate fans and the public towards the phenomenal cliff-edge views over Qiddiya.”

This looks rather amazing. And while the Bling-O-Meter is in the red zone with this design, it also makes quite a bit of sense. That much digital display and smart lighting provides for a lot of flexibility and creativity for event marketing and experience. There’s not going to be all that much need to bring in temporary digital display gear – like rental LED backdrops for concerts – when the whole building, inside and out, equates to a digital canvas.


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