Soccer City

Year:2010

Duration:3 years

Cost:£179m (£211m today)

Country: Johannesburg, South Africa

What did this project achieve?

Construct a landmark football stadium for the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Soccer City is a football stadium in Johannesburg close to the township of Soweto. With a seating capacity of almost 95,000 the arena is the largest in Africa. It was the main venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The stadium was originally constructed in 1989 as a ground for national team games and key domestic fixtures. It was extensively rebuilt for the 2010 World Cup and earned the nickname ‘the Calabash’ due to its resemblance to the African pot or gourd.

The venue was called the First National Bank or FNB stadium when it opened in 1989. It was referred to as Soccer City during the 2010 World Cup as FIFA doesn’t allow venues to use sponsored names during FIFA tournaments.

The World Cup overhaul saw the ground’s capacity boosted by more than 14,000. Among many new features, new orange seats were installed, each with a design of 10 thin black lines.

The lines indicate the directions to the 9 other stadiums of the 2010 tournament. The 10th points to Berlin – venue for the 2006 final.

The Johannesburg stadium was the site of Nelson Mandela’s first speech after his release from prison in 1990. It was also the location for his memorial service in December 2013.

The arena is now the home ground for Johannesburg premier league team Kaizer Chiefs.

Difference the stadium has made

Soccer City hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as the tournament’s final and other games.

As a key part of a month long international football tournament, the stadium raised South Africa and Johannesburg’s profiles as major sporting venues.

The stadium overhaul brought investment opportunities for South African construction companies and other businesses. Constructing the venue created 4,700 jobs.

How the work was done

The outside of the overhauled stadium was designed to look like a calabash – an African pot. Workers clad the exterior of the venue with a mosaic of fire and earthy colours. It took 32,400 fibre cement panels to create the design.

The project team installed a ring of lights running around the bottom of the structure to give the idea of a fire burning under a pot.

Engineers retained some of the original structure of the stadium’s upper tier, though they rebuilt this and the entire lower tier to improve sightlines. A new lower concourse was built, linked to the existing ground level concourse.

Other additions included executive suites, new changing rooms and new floodlights. Workers also built a new fabric roof 40m above the field. The roof covers the upper seats, leaving the lower section open to the skies. The design helped with ventilation as well as letting in plenty of sun.

The completed arena had no restricted views. None of the seats were more than 105m from the action on the field.

The project used 90,000m³ of concrete, 10,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel, 9m bricks and 13,000 tonnes of structural steel.

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A venue that still provides goose bumps…

Online newspaper the Daily Maverick

during a review of a concert by Irish rock band U2 at the stadium, 2011

Fascinating facts

The 10th black line on the stadium’s orange seats was added as 9 is considered an unlucky number in Africa.

The arena is often used for pop concerts. International stars have played there including Justin Bieber, Rihanna and U2.

The stadium is also used for religious meetings. Local Christian minister Chris Oyakhilome, known as ‘Pastor Chris’, has led rallies attended by over 100,000 people at the venue.

People who made it happen

  • Client: City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
  • Consulting engineers: Phumelala Africa (now PHUMAF)
  • Contractor: Joint venture between Grinaka-LTA and Interbeton

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