My friends, I had plans to write this article for months but constantly delayed it as we had more pressing, current football matters to discuss. I got the question on the blog to actually do a post on the subject and I have put aside my caution and decided to do it now. Writing about sacred ground is daunting. It’s like a catholic having to write a piece on the Vatican… can you do it justice?
So lets start with the magic, before we go into the facts. The Feyenoord Stadium, lovingly called De Kuip (The Tub, as it resembles a big bath tub), has been a sacred temple for me from when I was very young. Living in a little town outside of Rotterdam, I was lucky to share my street with legends like Willem van Hanegem, Wim Jansen, Dick Schneider and Peter Ressel, to name a few. Dick Schneider became a good friend and he gave me a season’s ticket from when I was 12 years old. I played football on the streets with Van Hanegem’s son and had Wim Jansen visit our games regularly. If Willem van Hanegem joined in, he would go on goal and score goals from goal kicks, curving the balls into the top corner of our goal (these were smaller pitches of course).
When driving into Rotterdam from the south side, you’d have to drive past De Kuip. The iconic stadium was visible from afar (Holland is very flat) and you could see the stadium for most of the trip, from my village to the centre of Rotterdam. The Stadium has quite some history. It was built in the depression era and Van Eesteren (the builder) used out of work construction people, offering them work and pay, while the city was gifted this wonderful sports arena.
Up until the year 00’s, De Kuip was the home of Feyenoord and Oranje. The Dutch national team enjoyed playing in Rotterdam as the capacity of the stadium was much bigger than that of rival Ajax’ old stadium (De Meer) and the Feyenoord pitch has always been top notch. The Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam was not too popular as it had an athletics track around the pitch. When Ajax moved to the Arena, however, the KNVB started to favour that futuristic site as the main home for Oranje, mainly for the VIP boxes and restaurants and parking. The Amsterdam Arena pitch (now actually the Cruyff Arena) was always pretty poor, however and most players (even the Ajax ones) preferred to play in Rotterdam. The KNVB decided differently: without renovations there would not be any big game played by Oranje in Rotterdam. Even the UEFA bypassed The Tub for European finals.
De Kuip has magic. There is no other site in Rotterdam so engrained in emotions, both happy and sad… hope and despair. Hate and Love go hand in hand (comrades) and the euphoria of a victory is closely partnered with deep sorrow after a defeat. A sport temple of steel and concrete.
And whenever Oranje does play in De Kuip, it’s an amazing site to see the Orange Fans walk to the stadium, singing and chanting. From De Achterhoek (“back corner” meaning the East of Holland), to Limburgers (from the South), fans from Utrecht, Den Haag and even Amsterdam. There’s even horse pulled carts from Barendrecht coming to Rotterdam South.Whenever the pride of Holland, the national team, plays at home, the weirdest people leave their homes and caves to cheer them on. Wearing the most outrageous outfits. Someone has a helmet with windmills, or orange Pippi Longstocking ponytails and another has a orange hairdo, like Scottish darts player Snakebite Wright. The pitch in De Kuip is the best in Holland and potentially one of the best in Europe. It’s not for nothing that former Feyenoord groundsmen were signed by behemoths like Arsenal and Barcelona. The pitch is our thirteenth man (the Oranje legion being the 12th of course). And players like Sneijder, Klaassen and Blind get a boost from this little lawn, the usual working space for Kuyt, Vilhena and Karsdorp.
We’re at home playing Belarus. And we win 4-1. Is it a coincidence that after all sorts of stumbling and hiccups, Oranje gets a nice home win in Rotterdam. What if we had played all our home qualifications games for the Euro 2016 in Rotterdam? Out of that pressure cooker pan in Amsterdam, back to the football temple in Rotterdam. Sure, there are scruffy toilets, the bitterballs are too cold and parking is a problem, but hey… it’s about football!
We lost the next game in Amsterdam, against France. The KNVB should avoid all risk and pick Rotterdam as the venue for the home game vs Sweden. Enjoy the magic of The Tub.
So, with all the changes made to most stadiums around the world (Emirates, Arena, Alliance Arena, Anfield), the Kuip in Rotterdam is becoming an ancient relic. Yes, the pitch is brilliant, yes the atmosphere in the stadium is gripping, but the infrastructure is old, the hospitality areas are out-dated, parking is a drama and the practice and training facilities and youth academy are across the road (highway) from the Stadium, meaning that every day, the squad assembles in the players’ home and then have to literally cross the highway to the training pitches. At least twice a day. Sometimes four times a day. Not a very good process for a top sports team.
The plans to renovate or rebuild have been there for more than a decade. Financial woes, lack of city council support, lack of consensus kept the discussion going much longer than needed. Over the last decade, ferocious debates were held as some people (supporters, ex-players, club icons) wanted the current stadium to be renovated, while developers, city-council and sponsors opted for a totally new venue, with added facilities and entertainment options. Many architects and construction companies from all over the world stumbled over each other to present the best option and decision making was dramatically slow.
But finally, Feyenoord City – as it will be called – is going to become a reality.
And the plans look awesome. A new, revolutionary stadium an iconic football temple on the banks of the Maas river. The current Kuip will be the inspiration for the new design.
Architect Gianotten: “This sports complex will become The face of the city. When you cross the Maas on the Brienenoord Bridge or look south from the city, you will see this Stadium. It will be an iconic platform and everyone will know: that is the new home of Feyenoord, the football temple of The Netherlands.”
David Gianotten of the OMA buro (Rem Koolhaas founded) is quite outspoken about it: “This should help Feyenoord to get back to the top of the Eredivisie, in a structural way and enable the club to become a mainstay in the European sup top.” The master plan for this development is done. With as a binding factor, a raised strip of ground – actually called The Strip – which will go from the current monumental Kuip towards the river. There, we’ll find the three ring stadium, offering a seat to 63,000 people. An exclamation mark on the left bank of Rotterdam, with activities seven days a week!
Feyenoord aims high with Feyenoord City. The new stadium will cost around 365 mio euros, and it will be the home of the Feyenoord Football Club, a beer brewery, apartments, a mega cinema, hotels and a village of 1600 dwellings. “This plan has everything any city would wish for,” says counselor Visser, at the presentation of the plan.
However, the 365 mio euros will need to be found still and financial support from the city will be key. The club hopes to get 40 mio euros from the city which will attract other sponsors and investors to join in. The city of Rotterdam seems to agree but the final plans and agreements are not there yet. The city prefers to offer the money as a loan, whereas the Feyenoord City board would love to offer shares in return.
All of this will need to further strengthen the club. The Feyenoord board expects to be able to double the players’ budget as a result of this mega move, allowing Feyenoord to compete with Ajax and PSV. “This plan is unique for The Netherlands and quite rare for Europe, actually.”
The ambitions are so high. Is a project like this affordable for Feyenoord?
Gianotten: “The construction of a stadium can be highly economical. The area it covers might be big, but it doesn’t require a lot of material. The volume of concrete and steel are not that high. But yes, it is a big investment for sure. But it won’t be a luxury item. It will have all it needs to have. And it’s quite unique, if you look at the setting, on the banks of the river.
“There is always discussion about the roof. What will this stadium get?”
It will get a movable roof. It won’t become an indoor pitch or something, but we can cover the stadium with a rain cover made of a plastics type, which will fold in / out from two sides. A fully sound proof roof would be too expensive and there are not that many huge stadium gigs anymore. You’d invest a lot for three or four events per year.”
How about visibility? Everyone needs to be able to see the game?
“We have used this as a design principle. Everyone needs optimum viewing from any seat. We started our design with the pitch, then the seats and after that we created the stadium shell. That is doing things the wrong way around, hahaha. The blocked view from the three rings are kept to a minimum. You won’t look at the bottom of the ring above you, anywhere in the stadium.”
With 63,000 seats it will be an immense stadium. How can you make sure it won’t be too massive?
“The stadium will be segmented. The building will be on a raised level, so we can lower the first level of seating. Then there is a first ring and on top of that a second ring. Each ring will have it’s own structural columns. It will look less massive this way. The Strip will also arrive at the venue on a higher level. Cars will move under the strip, the pedestrians will use the top level.”
It seems that the Stadium will be free-standing in its surrounding?
“Yes, there won’t be fences. Fences will invite aggression. Our crowd control will be done differently. The first wall you encounter is actuallty the outer wall of the stadium, or the escalators. The space under the stadium will be taken by restaurants and shops and supporting facilities for the club. On top, on the outside rim, we will have more restaurants and a night club with stunning views. This whole venue will be used 24 hours a day, every day!”
The current Tub is on the other end of the Strip, what will happen with this iconic temple?
“The Tub will be the anchor point. The monument will stay. We will have the Sport Experience there, the Museum and the supporters home. We’ll have a beer brewery there, athletic tracks and on top, we’ll have apartmentes. With windows looking in, towards the pitch and out, towards the city and the river.”
The end goal is to allow the budget of Feyenoord to match that of Ajax and PSV?
“Yes, the budget needs to increase structurally. PSV has more securities now, more funds. Ajax even more than PSV. Feyenoord needs to get to that level. And we count on the tremendous fan base here. The number of 63,000 is not a random number. We can probably guarantee a 100% occupancy. In some situations, we might have fitted even more people in, and in some case maybe less.”
Does the new stadium have a name?
“We currently call it “the new Feyenoord stadium”. Not a very catchy name. But usually people will create a fitting nickname for any place. And obviously, it will get a sponsored name as well.”
The new football temple will most likely be ready for the 2022/23 season.