The goal: delivering the audience an amazing, up-close experience.
Following renovations in 2018, the Kumagaya Rugby Ground has emerged as a new destination in Kumagaya, the town of rugby. It brings a totally new sporting experience.
We sat down with spokespeople for the Panasonic Wild Knights to learn more about what the Kumagaya Rugby Ground truly has to offer.
Being in such close proximity to the grounds, you can almost hear the players’ breathing.
The Kumagaya Rugby Ground is quite unusual in Japan in that it is a sports grounds dedicated exclusively to rugby. The finished product is truly world-class and is in a league of its own in Japan. One perennial problem with stadiums is the seats, which tend to provide less than ideal views of the action. This stadium is a page apart from that. The seating is positioned close to the playfield and brings such a sense of immersion that you can almost hear the athletes breathing. Meanwhile, the seats higher up are positioned so that you can see the field from almost a totally top-down view. Though compact, the stadium is exceedingly well designed.
One strength of this design is that the athletes and audience are brought ever closer to each other. At the end of the game, the crowd asks the athletes to come for a handshake. This proximity allows for added immersion in the game. As more fans engage with athletes, they will grow more fond of the sport. And that is likely to bring them back to the stadium a second time. I’m looking forward to sitting on the front lines of the stadium and watching the World Cup next year as a spectator.
Amazing views from any angle.
That’s the crowning touch of this stadium.
Forging new fans of rugby through a world-class stadium.
As someone directly involved in the sport of rugby, I want to do my part to create more fans of the sport through this stadium. While it goes without saying that the most important thing above all is that the athletes make a good showing of it, a great strength of this stadium is our ability to use the surrounding space to put on other events and programming. If we put on a popular event, it will bring new value to the stadium as a destination.
The stadium is really designed with the athletes in mind, too. Take the locker rooms. They are amazingly spacious and a pleasure to spend time in. The routes leading to the locker rooms are also well thought-out so that non-players can reach them with ease. Since the quality of a stadium can affect the outcome of a match, I would definitely like to see more stadiums out there like the Kumagaya Rugby Ground in the future. It really gives us a shot in the arm as rugby professionals to have such an amazing stadium to perform our best in.
A level of immersion and intense play you won’t get from the TV screen
We love the fact that fans and players can openly engage on the grounds.
I’ve been playing at the Kumagaya Rugby Ground since I was in middle school, before the new renovation. So this latest update is a series of surprises for me. We used to just have some bleachers in the grass, but now there are proper seats for each person, and even a roof. The screen used to just show the score, but now we even get live replays. These updates are really making the Kumagaya Rugby Ground a stadium for the fans.
The best is how close we are to the crowd. Many sporting grounds have a track-and-field track around the pitch, which creates a lot of distance with the crowd. But this stadium has no track and is exclusively for rugby, so the crowd is within arm’s reach. This is a great plus for us in terms of being able to engage with the crowd. We want to build up more fans of the sport.
We really want Kumagaya, Japan’s foremost rugby destination, to drive a nationwide boom for rugby.
Playing at a stadium where the audience is right there lets us hear their cries of support, too. It gives us a shot of enthusiasm like you wouldn’t believe. The circular locker rooms are also amazing. They’ve added showers, and there’s even an ice bath to unwind in and release fatigue. So I would say this is not just a stadium for fans, but one that takes into account the players, too. It’s for everybody.
There’s a level of immersion and intense play you won’t get from the TV screen. I am truly proud, and elated, to see that a stadium of this quality has been created in my hometown of Kumagaya. We want our town to drive a nationwide trend for rugby, and also to vitalize the town’s economy. The stadium has only just been unveiled, but there are so many possibilities.
Providing a more refined stadium experience by incorporating global trends.
Achieving proximity and visibility at the same time.
Creating a more refined stadium experience: This was foremost in our minds when designing the stadium. What would we need to do, exactly? We arrived at the idea of shrinking the distance between the field and audience. This has resulted in a net gain of 1.3 meters in height of the seats and closing the distance by 8 meters. This is dramatically closer than you will find at any other stadium. The level of immersion is unreal, and is a result of that change.
Bridging the gap between audience and athletes is a global trend in stadiums. The more you bridge that gap, though, the more the heads of the people in front can obstruct the view. Therefore, by changing the height of the bleachers slightly, we allowed for the field to be clearly in view from any position and enhanced immersion. The height difference is actually quite slight. We calculated this down to the smallest amount.
This unique approach is of benefit to both the crowd and the players.
The stadium, as a prefectural facility, is also used by middle and high school students, college students, adults, athletes in the top leagues, the Japan Olympic team, and more. The scale of these games of course differs. Some are small, some are large. By adopting catering trucks to serve food, they can control the number of shops selling items depending on the size of the game. This is a fairly new approach. Catering means you don’t need fixed food facilities and can toggle in and out what is needed, which also contributes to keeping the menu fresh and new. The catering trucks also turn into little hubs of activity.
Another unique aspect is the locker rooms. Generally speaking, in soccer, a team’s home stadium tends to have slightly nicer rooms for the home team. But here, both the home and away team get the same luxuries. Furthermore, they’re rounded. This lets them broadcast views of the team in the locker room on large monitors in the stadium and make it look really stylish. The coach can stand in the center and talk to the whole team, too.
Looking ahead to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
For this project, we spoke not only to the local prefecture, which is hosting the event, but to representatives from World Rugby and the Japan Rugby Football Union. Based on their feedback, we incorporated trends from the latest stadiums to make this a world-class grounds. The Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan in 2019. We expect many visitors from within and without Japan. How will fans take to the new stadium? We are looking forward to finding out.