The UK has a goal of attracting 80 international sporting events by 2015.

This year millions of people will visit UK venues for the 2012 Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. The UK is also a ‘must play’ location for many of the world’s most talented musicians, artists and creatives. These events are worth billions of pounds to the economy and have a huge impact on the communities around them.

I believe it is important to understand the factors that influence visitors’ experiences of these venues. What do venue users like?  What can be improved?  What innovations would they like to see?

Recently, Arup’s Sport business, which I am part of, conducted research with over 2,000 sports and entertainment fans and found that while they fall in love with heritage (voting Wembley Stadium, The O2, Centre Court at Wimbledon and Lords Cricket Ground as the most iconic UK venues), ergonomics, improved technology and usablility were high on their ‘must-have’ list. Of those intereviewed:

  • 49% wanted more comfortable, spacious seating

  • 32% wanted venues to be easier to navigate

  • 27% wanted an increase in safe standing room

  • 30% wanted to see more investment in technology which shows replays and different camera angles, improved access through faster ticket checks, and better venue design to allow entertainment to take place in all weather conditions

So what’s happening already? Leading stadia and arenas are already exploring how enhanced mobile networks, near-field communications and in-venue wi-fi enable fans to interact with players, performers and each other. High definition and 3D footage is playing a major role as modern stadia cater for the demands of 24-hour media and fans’ use of social media. 

Venues such as Oslo Opera House are enhancing acoustics and atmosphere using SoundLab®, a virtual listening environment that enables clients and designers to plan the sound of their venues, even before they are built. 

Another exciting area is lighting, where art, science and technology are being combined to enhance the experience for fans inside, while optimising the venue’s appearance for broadcasting.   

I believe there are tangible gains for countries, regions and individual clubs, but only if they listen to what spectators want. If they deliver on their expectations, venue owners will benefit from a boost in visitor numbers and a wider variety of entertainment they can offer, ultimately attracting more sponsorship and investment. 

What do you think?  Which venues do you feel are iconic and why?