Extending or renovating an existing football stadium is not just a matter of dealing with economical and technical challenges. It also evokes emotional and social forces that the design has to address. The ambitious growth of KV Oostende, both as a football club and as a business, required the renovation of the Versluys Arena. For now, a first stage was to provide for one long and one short side of the old stadium being replaced by a new building that included a grand stand. Envisioned was a functional and welcoming contemporary building that honors the motto ‘football by the sea’, as the home of a modern football club with roots in Oostende, a city characterized by a strong and specific cultural atmosphere.
Soccer at sea
With little surrounding space, the stadium is embedded by a boulevard along the sea, a residential area and a golf course in the dunes. The design the architects ZJA made in collaboration with abv+ architecten therefor pays ample attention to integration of the stadium in its surroundings. The limited distance to the residential area precluded a high structure, resulting in three levels partially below street level. The shape of the building also considers the proximity to the residential area. The wavelike shape of the rooftop curves inwards at the corners, to achieve a spatial effect. Another measure was to limit the number of gates and fences around the stadium, to allow space for passers by, greenery and promenades. The paneling of the building reflects the coastal atmosphere: bricks in sandy colors, washed wood in vertical slats and a green square without many obstacles. This all to preserve the experience of the openness of the coastal landscape around the building as much as possible.
A social gathering place for the community
A football club cannot operate without offices and a pressroom, situated on the second floor. The third floor provides an area where supporters can get a drink at half time and buy shirts and shawls. On the lower level the dressing rooms for players and referees can be found, together with a supporter’s home and a substantial VIP room, complete with a stage and a high ceiling. The reason for this is that the stadium fulfills an important function as social gathering place for the community, not just supporters of the football club. In practice this area is used as a hall to host festive occasions for the Oostende society, in advance of the matches, to celebrate victories, but also to organize non-football related events and festivities.
The Versluys Arena is a stadium custom made to suit the city of Oostende, reflecting the landscape and accommodating the community using it and living next to it. The design allows for the construction of a new, other half of the stadium in the same style without too many adjustments. ZJA has already completed an integral design for this next future stage.
Principal: KV Oostende
In collaboration with abv+ architecten
Photographs: KV Oostende, abv+ architecten and Kattoo Hillewaere