To say there’s been a lot of interest in the 2014 World Cup would be an understatement, and one of the biggest matches of the week will take place today at Arena das Dunas in Natal, where the U.S. team will play their opening World Cup match.
One of six new stadiums built for this year’s cup matches and the only one designed by a U.S. architecture firm (Populous), Dunas has been praised for its unique design, environmental sustainability, and for being completed on time and under budget. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, visiting the stadium for an inaugural event, declared herself “enchanted. The stadium is as beautiful as Natal.”
The arena’s striking feature is its design, with twenty petal shaped sections of varying, asymmetric heights, visually mimicking the sand dunes for which the area is known. Each of the sections is linked by an exterior concourse, and each houses a discrete seating block, with gaps between each section to allow for exterior light and cooling sea breezes.
The stadium is also environmentally inventive, with a roof designed with aluminum tiles for thermal insulation, and specially designed gutters to capture rainwater for use in pitch maintenance and in stadium lavatories.
The stadium was designed by the American-based global sports architecture firm Populous. Chris Lee, senior principal for the firm, stated, “We have designed a stadium and a master plan that showcases the aesthetics of the beautiful surrounding area of das Dunas and will create a great atmosphere for the World Cup 2014.” (For more on Chris Lee and the rest of the Populous soccer design team on World Cup, MLS and more, check out this interview.)
After the World Cup, two local teams, ABC and América-RN, have already signed contracts to play their home games at the stadium (with a reduced capacity), and it is multipurpose, with the ability to host concerts, exhibitions and trade shows.
The city of Natal has a vibrant and developing tourist industry, and is building a new airport that will be the largest in South America. Legendary footballer David Beckham has also chosen Natal for the South American outpost for his football academy, David Beckham World of Sport.
Seating capacity for World Cup games at Arena das Dunas will be 42,000, with seats starting less than 50 feet from the pitch — promising the Americans both a massive crowd and an intimate atmosphere in a likely must-win game if they hope to advance beyond the group stage.