Net gains with multipurpose sports stadiums

Ever since the English Roses won Commonwealth Gold on the Gold Coast in Australia last year, the interest and participation surrounding netball has been on the increase. Already a popular sport at club and school level, netball is now beginning to enjoy the same opportunities of other sports.

The interest and engagement is only set to increase when the Netball World Cup starts in Liverpool at the ACC Liverpool campus on 12 July 2019. The entire competition, including training, warm ups and matches will be based at the ACC Liverpool. The campus is made up of the M&S Bank Area Liverpool, BT Convention Centre and Exhibition Centre Liverpool. This multi-purpose facility has hosted a variety of events, including BBC Sports Personality of the Year and Championship Boxing, and is indicative of the type of multi-use real estate which is now so popular.

When this type of development is done well, it can only be seen as a positive as it increases the use and productivity of a single enterprise. The danger for developers of course is that, in trying to make a development as versatile as possible, they do not deliver on the buildings which were needed. Features such as folding walls, which can be used to sub divide larger spaces, or rows of chairs which can be folded back to create a large surface area, may not always justify the increased cost of development.

Equally, there is a danger that such developments, in seeking to accommodate every type of event, all become too similar. Whilst sporting venues such as Lord’s or Twickenham will doubtless have their own limitations, their individuality and instant association with certain sports can be seen as a strength, rather than a limiting factor in how they can be used as a venue.

This, however, does not seem to be the case for many of the multipurpose buildings which the England Roses and Netball Superleague teams use. Instead, netball has used its access to such real estate to its advantage and encouraged large crowds with exciting and fast paced entertainment. Rather than tying itself to a particular arena, international netball takes place in a variety of locations around the country. This fluidity means that organisers can adapt the venue to the type of event they wish to create and are not limited to a specific venue in a fixed area of the country.

Whilst Superleague teams have their ‘home’ courts and the Copperbox in London has become synonymous with netball, these are still usually part of wider sporting developments such as universities. Instead, netball can take advantage of its ever increasing popularity by staging events in larger arenas, without needing to provide the capital to build or funds to maintain courts or other infrastructure. It also means that large amounts of capital do not need to be invested in building an arena which will need maintaining and may even become superfluous due to its position or size.

The venue for the Netball World Cup has a variety of spaces which are all being used to their full potential. The matches will all take place inside the M&S Bank Arena Liverpool with the warm up courts and hospitality events accommodated in the adjoining BT Convention Centre. There will also be a ‘fan park’ at Chavasse Park where fans can watch the matches on a big screen whilst taking part in social media activities and sampling the variety of food vendors and live music which are promised.

Similarly, the M&S Bank Arena will have a variety of activities happening outside it before, during and after the netball. The multi-faceted nature of developments such as the ACC Liverpool means that organisers can spread the atmosphere of the event. Ticket holders are not tied to their seats but can go and enjoy other aspects of the World Cup after the matches. Similarly, those who were not lucky enough to get tickets can still take part in the action.

Using the variety of spaces and environments which the ACC Liverpool can offer, the Netball World Cup is sure to build on the Roses’ success down under. Let’s hope that they can go for gold again on home soil.

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