European champion Virtus dreams of its own home
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European champion Virtus dreams of its own home, drawing inspiration from five iconic NBA stadiums

Massimo Zanetti, owner and president of the Bologna basketball team, determined to build a stadium for the “Black V”

European champion Virtus dreams of its own home
By Eugenio Petrillo -

You’d be wrong to think that the success of sports clubs is just what goes on at the games. Every success is the result of often years of planning, investment, and far-sighted decision making. This is certainly true of Virtus Segafredo Bologna, one of the most successful basketball teams in Italy and Europe. And the black-and-white team’s successes really began when Italian coffee company Segafredo Zanetti became its main sponsor and Italian businessman Massimo Zanetti, its owner and president. When Zanetti took over the Bologna team, he got behind them with passion and determination, and nowadays the results are there for all to see. The team moved from Serie A2 to Serie A, going on to win the Champions League, Italian Supercups, Italian Championships, and even a EuroCup. This last victory was the final piece in the puzzle for Virtus, the win earning it the right to compete in the next EuroLeague, the most important basketball competition in Europe.


A new home

La Virtus Segafredo Bologna vince l'Eurocup 2021-2022 Photography by Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna, courtesy of Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna

On the wave of enthusiasm and celebrations set off by this latest win, Zanetti has been heard to say, “We will build our own stadium – a home arena that isn’t shared with others or on loan. This is a huge and difficult undertaking, but I’m determined to complete it.” The idea had actually been floated months earlier, but with playing the best teams in Europe now a reality, it’s suddenly become urgent. Being “trapped” in its current home, Pavilion 37 of the Bologna exhibition center, has become a real limitation for this ambitious club. There are still no definite projects, however. Regarding the location, it’s been rumored that it will be somewhere near the exhibition center, but nothing’s certain.

If the facility lives up to fan expectations and statements by the team, it will become the flagship stadium in Italy, where, for the most part, facilities are outdated and of little architectural importance. Zanetti has said that it will be a multi-use structure able to host sporting events, concerts, stage shows, and conferences. In other words, a home to be lived in 365 days a year, with Virtus ruling the roost.


Madison Square Garden: the Mecca of basketball

Madison Square Garden - New York Photo by Ajay Suresh / Wikimedia Commons, License CC Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

It’s very early days, but to imagine what the new Segafredo Arena will be like, let’s take a look at some excellent models from overseas, with the best being the great American stadiums that host NBA games. And what better place to start than New York, home to two of the most important facilities in the world: Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. Just a few blocks from the Empire State Building in Manhattan is the famous Madison Square Garden, an arena that’s hosted thousands events of all kinds and has earned itself the nickname the “Mecca of Basketball”. The Garden, which seats 19,812, was inaugurated in 1968. Although built over 50 years ago, the arena itself is still just as inspiring and exciting as ever.


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Historical to modern: Barclays Center

Barclays Center - New York Photo by Rhododendrites / Wikimedia Commons, License CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Less than six miles from Madison Square Garden is New York’s second major arena, Barclays Center. This 17,732-seat facility was opened in September 2012, when the Nets moved from Newark to Brooklyn. The center embraces some futuristic architectural ideas. Although his vision wasn’t adopted, Frank Gehry, who designed the project, even proposed building a park on the roof, open only to local residents, with a jogging track and skating rink in winter, offering 360-degree views over Brooklyn and Manhattan. The arena has glazed walls with steel panels featuring a pattern reminiscent of the red bricks of typical Brooklyn homes. Screens and signs on the exterior allow people outside the stadium to see the score of the game going on inside. A sense of spectacle is achieved with its theater-like lighting system, with the stands remaining dark while spotlights light up the court.


Chase Center: modern, comfortable, functional

Chase Center - San Francisco Photo by Américo Toledano / Wikimedia Commons, License CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Golden State Warriors are the most successful team over the last decade. Previously based in Oakland, the franchise moved across the Bay to the Chase Center. The arena, which was inaugurated with a Metallica concert, seats over 18 thousand and offers every service you’d expect in a modern facility. Located in central San Francisco, it’s also easy to get to. The twenty-five-million-pixel mega screen that overlooks the court is unique, making it possible for fans to follow all the action down to the tiniest detail. The center host 30 different kinds of restaurant, 32 private lounges equipped with every facility, and over 130 suites. It’s a true masterpiece of sports architecture.


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Since 2022, its official name has been Arena, but for fans, it’s still, and always will be, the Staples Center. Seating 19,060, it’s the only facility in the NBA that’s home to two franchises: the Lakers and the Clippers. Since it was inaugurated in 1999, these Los Angeles teams have seen many successes, although almost all of them have involved the Lakers. Basketball’s greatest legends have played here, including the late Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Shaquille O’Neal, just to name a few. The Arena, known for its large glazed façade, is also multifunctional, hosting NBA basketball as well as hockey, wrestling, boxing, concerts, and a variety of events.


United Center Chicago: home to Michael Jordan

United Center - Chicago Photo by Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons, License CC Attribution 2.5 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.5), 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) and 1.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 1.0)

Chicago’s United Center has been home to the Bulls since 1994. And, at least in part, the stadium has become synonymous with the team because of Michael Jordan, the basketball superstar who won three of his six NBA rings here. While the legend of MJ will remain in everyone’s memory, in Chicago it’s as if no time has passed at all, with the 21 thousand-seat arena still unchanged from when he played here. (It’s also still the biggest facility in the NBA.) At the entrance, a statue of MJ welcomes fans to the stadium, which, despite its high capacity, offers a perfect view of the game from every seat.


>>> You have until June 30 to register for THE PLAN Award 2022, an annual international award for excellence in architecture, interior design, and urban planning with 20 categories, including SPORT&LEISURE, dedicated to sports facilities and fields, playgrounds, leisure areas


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Cover image: Virtus Segafredo Arena | © Virtus Pallacanestro Bologna
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