The Nassau National Beach Soccer Arena, host venue for the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017, may be build on sand, but it is creating a firm foundation for the future.
With proper foundations, a
sound infrastructure and consistent and thorough planning, a stadium can serve as a legacy for generations to come, a turning point in the history of a region and perhaps even the birth of a country’s new sporting passion.
There are examples of this taking place all over the world and the latest can be found by Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas.
National Beach Soccer Arena is a 3,500-seater, brand new, state of the art facility in the heart of Nassau that has already been to put to good use with the Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship and will be enshrined in the sport’s history when it hosts the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup this year.
Constructed by a largely Bahamian team, the arena took over five months to complete from start to finish and will not only help put the nation on the map when it becomes the setting for beach soccer’s global showpiece event, organisers will also hope it helps to grow the sport in the Bahamas.
With its arcing, golden beaches and pristine turquoise oceans, it’s easy to see why the Bahamas represents an ideal place for the sport to grow, and architect Bruce LaFleur is a vision of pride as he sits down to talk through the stadium and its impact.
“I am most proud of the fact that the stadium was built by a Bahamian-led team,” explains LaFleur, who is also Bahamas Football Association vice president. “I am also very proud that every seat is ‘the best seat in the house’ and patrons can be fully engaged with what’s happening on the pitch.
“Many Bahamians and other Caribbean nationals have expressed high levels of excitement and are blown away by the look of the stadium as well as the beach soccer experience. Bahamians in particular are proud of the structure that we can call our own.”
In truth, it was no ordinary beach soccer stadium that LaFleur and his team had been tasked with building. This was to host the biennial Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup and needed to serve as a catalyst for the growth of beach soccer in the region.
In a country that places a great deal of interest in the likes of track and field, cricket and football, the stadium represented something hugely important for organisers and the project came with plenty of hurdles for LaFleur and his team to leap.
“The main objective was to create the ultimate fan experience for everyone in the stadium, from the general spectators to the VIPs,” LaFleur continues.
“But we obviously had challenges to overcome. The main one we faced during construction was the shipping of materials from Malaysia. It is a big distance for goods to travel and it was a complicated process – we had tight timelines with little room for delays, but we made it happen!
“Something else that most people don’t know about the stadium is that the water table in that area is very high and we came up with a drainage strategy which ensures that, even in the worst rain, the pitch remains dry and playable.” With expert planning and the knowledge of construction company Pakar Seating, Malcolm Park Beach Soccer Facility now sits proudly as a jewel in the Bahamas’ sporting crown, with locals able to see first hand the quality of the finished product at the recent Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship.
Jean Jaques Pralus, general manager of Pakar Seating, said: “One of the main challenges and one of the things that gives this stadium a special touch is the 50-metre-wide VIP cover, with a structure that required a great engineering effort.”
The Concacaf tournament – a 16-team event, which included the hosts – brought thousands to the stadium, where they could enjoy ample VIP seating, perfect views of the action from the spectator areas and ‘the ultimate fan experience for everyone in the stadium’.
“This was achieved by making the stadium the right size so that every person, no matter where they sit, can feel that they are a part of the action on the pitch,” LaFleur continues.
“Also the placement of the seating allows for proper sight lines and means everyone can have an unobstructed view of the game.
“This stadium is a unique construction due to the fact that it is a permanent structure and first of its kind. The construction of additional VIP lounges also makes it unique as usually there is only one VVIP lounge in beach soccer stadiums.
“I think it is also safe to say that it is the most attractive stadium, with vibrant colours that reflect the spirit of the Bahamian people.”
The theme of workability combined with aesthetics is a crucial one, with the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup set to be broadcast around the world between 27th April and 7th May, while the stadium will also likely be a strong contender to host further events at a continental and regional level.
“The local organising committee perfectly understood what a Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup stadium is supposed to be, both in terms of utility and appearance,” said Beach Soccer Worldwide event manager Gabino Renales.
Bahamas FA President Anton Sealey is eager to focus on the stadium’s future benefits.
“The facility will transform the sporting landscape here in the Bahamas and help engender the sport of beach soccer within the country’s psyche,” he explained.
“We’ve always had the beaches and the talent within a footballing context, now we have a perfect facility that can spread the word and inspire the younger generations to give beach soccer a go.” After the Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship – which helped serve as something of a warm-up event for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup – all eyes will now turn to Malcolm Park and there will certainly be a few envious glances from other countries’ delegations when they wander down to Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge and take in the venue.
For those within the Bahamas, once the event moves on, the focus will be ensuring maximum benefit for decades to come.