What is the next generation stadium like, and what kinds of plans does Aki Riihilahti have for Telia 5G Arena?
Telia 5G Arena, which is the football sanctuary in Helsinki, is known for its lively Veikkausliiga football league games as well as a stage for international games. The Arena is also much more than that. "None of the football stadiums in the Nordic countries can operate solely on the basis of football", says the CEO of 5G Arena and HJK, Aki Riihilahti. "The stadium has become a natural meeting place for residents thanks to a diversified service offering. In addition to football and sports, we have 60 children from after-school clubs a day, Alzheimer patients, meeting participants, occupational well-being customers and corporate event participants."
Now, a renovation is being planned for the 5G Arena that will take visitor experience to the next level. "We want to turn the Arena into a stadium that is in the center of Helsinki where the facilities will be filled every day for events and services to cater for various groups of customers. The current stadium is about to reach its limits”, Riihilahti says.
The greatest project in the entire improvement is the construction of the southern end of the Arena. Steel and concrete will be used for creating new parts of the stadium, and the measure for success will be customer experience. ”Our aim is to make the changes in such a way that the audience will consider what to wear when they come to the Arena. We are improving the whole experience from buying a ticket to operations at the Arena all the way to the event itself", says Riihilahti about the plans.
Technology is becoming more closely linked with sports entertainment and popular events. 5G Arena is Telia’s showcase to the future. In summer, one of the first real-time 360 3D virtual reality transmissions in Europe was carried out at the stadium as Telia and Nokia showcased the possibilities of VR technology at a game between HJK and JJK. Telia 5G Arena is also one of the first places where the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority has granted a radio permit to test 5G technology.
5G will increase the transmission rates and capacity in the mobile network as much as hundredfold compared with the current level. The technology can be considered revolutionary as it will be able to serve a great number of devices connected to the network and it will be possible to create real-time services that require extremely reliable connections. In addition to public events and entertainment services, 5G also enables, for example, self-driving vehicles, new kinds of remote learning and healthcare services as well as critical industrial processes.
WIND TUNNEL CLOSED, MORE FLUENT COMMUNICATION
According to Riihilahti, customers expect to have more services and the fluency created by a new technology is considered a default. The ticket system, entrance and connections at the stadium must operate seamlessly. Customers wish to take care of their business with a mobile phone and making payments and other transactions must run smoothly. Expectations related to restaurant services are also increasing all the time.
All alternatives of the renovation project are centered around the construction of the southern end of the Arena. The improvement will, in particular, alleviate the services of regular customers and major events organized at the stadium. A building will close the wind tunnel that goes through the Arena and conditions in the entire spectator stand will improve.
The European Football Association Uefa’s criteria are another story. High profile international games require that a long list of requirements is met, and it is not sensible to continuously organize games at the Arena with exceptional permits. ”Emergency exits, the needs of special groups, lighting, media facilities and preparations for external production vehicles needed by the media, several security issues...”, Riihilahti lists. ”There is plenty to do but we wish to play major games on our home field.”
The renovation is only carried out at the 5G Arena plot, and it will be financed through private funds. The city has granted a planning provision for the Arena improvement project, and the next step is to present the alteration plans for approval. According to Riihilahti, the project schedule including necessary decisions and permit processes will take at least a couple of years.