Shisa and Naha Officials Unveil Stadium Plans

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Updated: May 28, 2016

Shiba Taguchi, Ryukyu Sports News

Naha, OkinawaAugust 30, 2023:

Populous, an American global architectural firm also known for its design of Wembley Stadium in the United Kingdom, and Stadium Australia in Sydney, has taken first place in a competition to design the new home stadium of the Okinawa Shisa. The visually striking submission will serve as the basis for the facility that will replace Shisa Stadium, built in 1959 and which served as the Shisa’s home stadium since 2007. For now referred to as Shisa Stadium II, the new stadium is scheduled for completion in early 2025.

The choice of Populous is widely seen as a safe one, with the firm specializing in the design of such large-scale sports venues. In fact, both the firm and the team acknowledge that the winning design draws heavily on a proposal put forward by the firm for the now defunct Tampa Bay Devil Rays of the old MLB, but with some significant differences. The Tampa Bay project called for a modest 35,000 seat stadium to replace a widely derided indoor stadium, widely seen as a last ditch effort to preserve major league baseball in the area, however, the new stadium was never built and MLB folded soon thereafter. The new stadium the Shisa have planned is said to have a capacity of 45,000+ and images provided indicate that the stadium will indeed be quite large.

Club officials have been adamant that they intend to see this project through. It is something that they view as the next stage in the development of the club into a world class franchise. “This is an exciting time for the Shisa,” said Shisa club President Hatsuo Ko. “Japanese baseball has for some time had the reputation for being too hidebound and focused on past tradition at the expense of future development. We want the rest of the baseball world to know that we will not be left behind. We are prepared to lead. This new stadium is a statement of our intent and our ambition.”

Ko, Naha mayor Yogi Keiji, and other members of the jury set before entrants a number of criteria to be met by prospective structures, including a retractable roof, some adjustable seating to accommodate other events, and harmony with its physical surroundings, particularly the nearby Manko Estuary. Ko acknowledged that all entries accomplished these criteria to varying degrees, and he expressed his appreciation for the work that went into all of the proposals.

The winning stadium design eschews the massive, traditional retractable roof seen in contemporary stadia in favor of what the team calls a ‘mast and arch’ approach, which reduces the potential size of the footprint of the stadium, saves a considerable amount of money, and gives the stadium a distinctive look. The roof, or covering, has the appearance of a sail, evocative of a boat on the sea, which the jury found to be a strong reflection of the location of the club, on the island of Okinawa. The primary benefit of the sail covering should be obvious to Japanese baseball fans, elminating rainouts and rain delays. The design also is similar in function to Shisa Stadium’s present form, with a hybrid roof/open concept. As can be seen in the overhead illustration, the new stadium will be adjacent to Manko Estuary, but will not alter the shoreline.

The new stadium will also feature two very large outfield bleacher sections on the north side for the teams two ouendan, the reds and the blues. These bleachers sit on either side of a large, grass covered batter’s eye in center field. The team has challenged the ouendan to increase their membership, fill these bleachers, and make an even greater contribution to the game day atmosphere in Naha in the seasons to come. For their part, the team’s supporters’ clubs have expressed enthusiasm for the new facility, and have vowed to outdo each other in the race to increase membership.

The design competition, in which submissions were invited from firms from around the world attracted eleven initial proposals. During the past two weeks, the eleven entries were eventually whittled down to a shortlist of three, including the ultimately winning bid from Populous; a design from Australia’s Cox Architecture, a major player in the design of Sydney’s Olympics venues; and a proposal from Japan’s SANAA.

Official ground breaking for the new stadium is tentatively scheduled for October 10, although construction work has already begun on the stadium site.