Japan to up national stadium capacity


National Stadium capacity expansion in Tokyo Image: Japan National Stadium, RuinDig/Yuki Uchida, CC BY 4.0

The new operator of Japan’s National Stadium in Tokyo is looking to increase capacity to 80,000 as the country eyes a second chance to host the FIFA World Cup.

Japan Today said the country’s largest mobile carrier NTT Docomo Inc is set to lead the venue’s operation once it is privatized next April.

And the company has revealed its plan to add pitch-side seating at the stadium, which currently seats around 68,000.

The stadium in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, served as the main venue for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2021.

It was designed to be renovated following the games as an 80,000-seat stadium specifically for football and rugby, but a policy change has left its athletics track and original capacity intact until now.

NTT Docomo said, “We have a plan to set up the number of seats, including some temporary ones, required for the World Cup.”

Other new initiatives under the incoming operator could include fund raising with a naming rights deal and increasing the number of events held at the venue. The stadium is currently managed by the Japan Sport Council.

Japan Today further stated that the Japan Football Association has a long-term plan to stage the World Cup as a solo host by 2050 after co-hosting the 2002 tournament with South Korea.

Currently, FIFA requires the main venue at the 2034 World Cup to hold 80,000 for the opening game and final. It also mandates 60,000-seat semi-final venues.

NTT Docomo is also considering installing a giant screen, which is expected to be one of Japan’s biggest.

Three groups proposed privatization plans for the venue, and on June 3, the Japan Sport Council named the one that includes NTT Docomo, football’s J-League, constructor Maeda Corp. and real estate firm SMFL Mirai Partners Co Ltd, as its preferred bidder, after examining the different bidders’ respective operating plans and costs.

The consortium offered to pay 52.8 billion yen ($338 million) for the rights to a 30-year operating licence. This would significantly reduce the Japanese government’s financial burden as far as the stadium is concerned.

The NTT Docomo-led group’s proposal was in line with the ideas of the Japan Sports Agency, which is leading the initiative to switch the stadium to private-sector operation.

NTT Docomo hopes to use the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network, its next-generation communications infrastructure that uses optical technology, in running the stadium, and plans to make it possible to hold concerts and other large-scale events by making full use of cutting-edge communications technology.

The consortium will also begin developing digital technology to reduce unwanted sound since the stadium has an open roof.

NTT Docomo and the other three parties plan to sign a formal contract as early as September and take over the relevant businesses of the council in April next year.

The national government will continue to own the stadium.

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