Miyagi Stadium

Rifu Town, Miyagi Prefecture

Sendai City, in Miyagi prefecture, is located in a broad and fertile valley that faces the Pacific Ocean. Sendai is an old castle town, and the lords of this city, the Date family, once ruled a vast area covering most of northern Japan. Sendai is the center of an important rice-growing region, and the vast expanses of green, rippling rice fields will be one of the scenic highlights for those who attend the World Cup matches at Miyagi Stadium. The stadium itself is actually located at some distance from the city, in the town of Rifu, about halfway between Sendai and the famous resort town of Matsushima. The seacoast in this area is studded with rocky islands, and it it is widely renowned one of the most scenic spots in all of Japan. Although it is a multipurpose stadium, with stands separated from the pitch by a wide running track, the architecture and shape of the stands at Miyagi Stadium make it a very attractive venue.

If you believe everything that you read in the overhyped FIFA websites (or even the official site of Sendai city, for that matter) you will be told that the design of Miyagi Stadium is supposed to symbolize the spiral arms of the galaxy, and is symbolic of "reaching to the future, and reaching out to the rest of the world". But those who have seen the beautiful arches of the stadium itself will be pleased to hear that this airy-fairy codswallop is nothing more than the invention of some tale-spinners from Sendai City's publicity department. According to the website of the stadium's architect, Hitoshi Abe, the design was influenced by the shape of the surrounding hills, which seemed to Mr. Abe to form interlinking circles. Expanding these circles into three dimensions, he developed a concept for both the stadium and the surrounding park, which is based on numerous interlocking circles and spheres. He also claims to have been influenced by the shape of the soaring roof on Happy Valley Stadium, in Hong Kong.

During the run-up to the World Cup, much was written in the overseas (mainly European) press about the venues Japan and Korea built for WC 2002. No doubt some Europeans still want to convince themselves that football in Asia is still some backward kick-around of the sort that you might see in a British junior high school, and in order to feed that myth, countless writers waxed long and loquacious about how "useless" the stadium were, claiming that they were all financial boondoggles that were miring local towns in oceans of red ink. "White elephants" they were called. Well, some people DO see white elephants when theyve been drinking too much, and in general, that seems to be the only explanation for these stories. With one exception, every one of the stadiums in Japan that were built for WC2002 have already paid for themselves and are now firmly in the black.

That leaves just one exception to the rule. Miyagi Stadium. At least in this one case, the bad press is justified.

When the city fathers decided to build Miyagi Stadium, they no doubt hoped that it would soon become the main venue for the home matches of Vegalta Sendai, the local member of the J.League second division. However, after a breif spell in the J1, Vegalta were relegated at the end of 2003, and have been struggling ever since. Even when they were in the top-flight division, though, the team preferred to hold its home matches at the far-more convenient Sendai Stadium, which is not only located right near the center of town, but also is a football only facility. The fans love their home ground dearly, and except in the case of very high-profile matches that require a larger capacity than Sendai Stadium's 19,800, they are reluctant to trudge out to the distant, cold and excessively spacious Miyagi stadium. For all its beauty in terms of architectural appeal, Miyagi Stadium is no place to hold football matches. In this case, at least, "Boondoggle" is an appropriate word.


Miyagi (Sendai) Stadium   Capacity: 42,300
Home Team: Vegalta Sendai   Completed: March 1999
Location: Rifucho, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi Prefecture
Building Area: 57,564 m2   Total Floor Area:67,503 m2
Building Structure: Six floors above ground level, one in the tower (Height 46.75 meters). Roofs of stainless-aluminum-plated copperplate. Exposed concrete finish, Outer walls of stainless-aluminum plated copperplate. Concrete shot concourse