Statement Stadium

Published: 21 May 2021
Zaha Hadid Architects has won approval for Eco Park Stadium, the world’s first timber soccer stadium to anchor the sports section of Eco Park in Stroud, Gloucestershire, England.

Eco Park Stadium will be the first soccer stadium to use timber for the structural elements as well as the floor slabs. ZHA originally won the design competition for the 5,000-seat stadium in 2016, although the firm was sent back to the drawing board when Stroud District Council’s planning committee necessitated changes to the adjoining business park in June of 2019.

Eco Park Stadium will anchor the titular 100-acre Eco Park, a technology business campus development from British energy company Ecotricity, and will be home for football club Forest Green Rovers.

Eco Park Stadium will be built almost entirely from timber, including entrance portals and floor slabs, with the exception of a translucent canopy stretched over the seating that will allow sunlight to enrich the natural grass pitch. Key structural components, the massive timber beams and columns will be left exposed.

The first phase of the stadium is planned for the aforementioned 5,000 seats, but ZHA’s scheme will reportedly allow the structure to expand to up to 10,000 seats in phase 2 with minimal construction.

Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder and Forest Green Rovers chairman, said in a press release provided by ZHA that, “The really standout thing about this stadium is that it’s going to be almost entirely made of wood ” the first time that will have been done anywhere in the world.

“The importance of wood is not only that it’s naturally occurring, it has very low embodied carbon – about as low as it gets for a building material,” Vince says.

“Our new stadium will have the lowest carbon content of any stadium in the world,” he added.

Despite go-ahead being given, it will likely be three-to-four years before the club plays at Eco Park, as the infrastructure at the site still needed to be built up.

Eco Park will be broken into two sections: The sports section, which will hold the stadium, surrounding public soccer fields, a sports science hub, and multi-disciplinary facilities, and second section: a green technology business park with room for up to 4,000 employees, including offices for Ecotricity.

Forest Green Rovers has already been named the world’s greenest football club by FIFA. The players have adopted a vegan diet to reduce their carbon footprint, and only vegan served is served on match days.

Other environmental innovations include a transparent membrane that covers the stadium, allowing the grass to grow under the sunlight and minimising shadows that could distract players during the game.

An organic grass pitch will be watered with recycled rainwater and uses solar panels to power its floodlights. The pitch is mowed by an electric “mow bot” that uses GPS technology to automatically cut the grass, with the grass clippings given to local farmers to put on their soil.

It was the second attempt to gain planning permission for the 5,000-seat timber stadium after the original proposal was blocked by Stroud’s local council in June 2019.

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) changed the stadium design to include an all-weather pitch and included a different landscaping strategy to mitigate worries that the stadium design did not sufficiently make up for the loss of green fields it will be built on.

Local councillors in Stroud had also cited concerns that the 20-metre-high timber stadium could detract from the views of nearby historic hamlets, and fears that a £7 parking charge could tempt people to park for free on verges instead.

“This building is iconic, it could be a tourist attraction,” Councillor Miranda Clifton said of the new timber stadium.

“At the moment we are known for our waste incinerator,” she said.