AFAS Stadion revamp plans may have more elbow room


AZ Alkmaar stadium - February 2020 update Image: Zwarts and Jansma Architects

A solid vision of what the AFAS Stadion at Alkmaar in the Netherlands will look like when the new roof is put in place has been carved out. Of course, nothing concrete has emerged as yet. The summer of 2020 should see – in all likelihood – the installation of the new roof thus replacing the one that had caved in last year in August.

The facility is used for football matches and is the home ground of the Dutch professional football club, AZ Alkmaar.

It may be recalled that in August 2019, the central segment of the roof over AFAS Stadion’s north-eastern stand collapsed onto the seats. It was a traumatic experience for fans and something which they would prefer to forget.

The development will witness no major intervention into existing stands, but the 17,023-capacity venue might be in a position to seat 5,000 more spectators.

It was only in mid-December last year that the civic authorities ruled that AFAS Stadion was safe until the end of the season.

During their New Year’s reception in mid-January, AZ gave a prelude of what the arena might look like. Though not the final version, it gives a rough idea on what propositions the entire foundation of the stadium will stand.

Amsterdam-based Dutch architecture firm Zwarts en Jansma Architecten has designed AFAS Stadion which opened on August 4, 2006. The design practice has been given a chance to refurbish their own creation from 2006. However, their lead architect, Moshé Zwarts, will be missing in action this time as he passed away in 2019. Zwarts played a leading role in the spruce-up of stadiums like Sparta Stadion Het Kasteel located at Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Stadion Galgenwaard in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands. The former is the residence of Dutch professional football club Sparta Rotterdam and the latter serves as the home of Dutch football club FC Utrecht. His crowning achievement was the Feyenoord Stadium (in the Netherlands again). He created this masterpiece together with his colleague Rein Jansma. The duo deserves credit for the iconic look which the Feyenoord Stadium presently wears.

Revamp plans

The new roof will be cantilevered, just like the old one, but the structure will be much bigger – both in terms of volume and surface. The roof closest to the pitch will be transparent to make certain that the quality of the pitch is not jeopardized. The height of the roof over the three lower stands is expected to be of the same height as the roof over the main stand (the old one was undulating), which leaves a lot of room for expansion at the top by aligning the stands. Presently, the stands behind the goals and in the corners are between 1 and 7 rows lower than the center part of the east stand, so a minimum of seven rows would be added, it could even be more.

The above development would be part of Phase 1, and will be implemented this year, between seasons. Though funding is secured for further changes, the club’s General Director Robert Eenhoorn stated that further changes will be done only during the 2021 summer break. The extra top rows can be added only after the endorsement of the local Government taking into cognizance the fact that additional parking space will be required.

Phase 2 will see more concrete plans to expand towards the pitch. Extension of the main stand in the south-west and the fanatics stand in the south-east will happen as there is a huge amount of space left between the field and the auditorium. This will likely include the introduction of safe standing on the fanatics stand or Ben Side, as informed by CEO Eenhoorn back in 2018.

Phase 3 will witness the same addition to stands east and south. It might also lead to AFAS Stadion’s capacity growing by 2,500 to 5,000 (in the most ambitious reconfiguration).

However, structural constraints aren’t the only obstacle for the stadium.

Parking issues

Parking space is a huge issue in Alkmaar and will have to be taken into consideration in a big way. Presently, the club has to provide 0.22 parking places per visitor, which translates to roughly one parking space per four people. So, increase by 5,000 seats would have to come with 1,100 new parking bays.

However, the municipality of Alkmaar had already made it clear in 2007 that the ratio would be lowered to 0.18 per visitor for a much larger facility (back then the scenario was a World-Cup-eligible venue of 40,000), which – if implemented in this case – would translate into 200 cars less to fit in with the maximum capacity increase. However, back then, AZ had anticipated a much lower ratio with 0.11 parking spaces per visitor. It is expected that negotiations between the club and the local authorities on the parking issue would gain greater momentum in the coming weeks.

More changes on the way?

Though the Dutch football club has not given out much detail, it is expected that further changes will be effected into the arena. If the capacity of the stadium goes up by 5,000 seats, it would mean the necessity to adjust public catering and sanitary facilities. Further, extra rows in front of the current stands would lead to restructuring of the crowd circulation routes. Taking all these into consideration, it might be so that the new roof and expansion might be followed by a brand new elevated public concourse around the three lower stands.

Finally, there is more elbow room to grow in the west. Until the roof collapse happened in August last year, AZ was already mulling on adding four new private boxes. Expansion of premium facilities will take place in all likelihood as the main stand’s ‘attic’ is largely vacant barring few technical installations. After all, the main stand’s roof has to be changed as well and it is not likely to be at the same height as the remaining three, as recommended in the rendering.

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