The new home of the Virtus basketball team has been described as “more than a sports arena, a suspended lantern.” MCA-Mario Cucinella Architects, which designed the facility, officially presented the project with Bologna’s highest ranking officials in attendance. Complying with all the requirements set by EuroLeague and the International Basketball Federation, the new multifunctional arena will be built inside the Bologna exhibition precinct, replacing the less efficient and little used Pavilion 35. It therefore represents one more step towards the better functional integration of the exhibition precinct into its urban setting, with both cultural and sporting events to be held here. In other words, the Bologna exhibition center will be going beyond its job of hosting exhibitions, much like the temporary municipal theater in the same area.
The new structure will stand at the intersection of Piazza Aldo Moro and Viale della Fiera, in other words, on the site occupied by Pavilion 35, which will be demolished. The complex will not only offer facilities for basketball matches, but is sufficiently flexible and reconfigurable to also host tradeshows. It will also have a second training facility for the firsts team, shops, and bathrooms, all of which will be differentiated from the arena itself. The structure will have a roughly 33 foot (10 m) high podium, will reach a height of 82 feet (25 m), and seat ten thousand fans.
From outside, while fitting well into the precinct, the new complex will be a recognizable landmark by virtue of its striking façades and dynamic envelope – a screen onto which what’s going on inside the arena, whether that’s a concert or a sports event, can be projected. The result is that the structure will be lit up like a large suspended lantern that will tell visitors, fans, and the whole city about the activities taking place inside.
“This is an important project and unprecedented for our city,” said the mayor of Bologna, Matteo Lepore. “It’s part of a more comprehensive vision of Parco Nord, which will not only host trade exhibitions but also entertainment and sports events, with an innovative use of the pavilions.”
So as not to disrupt the current exhibition program, flexibility and reconfigurability are central elements of MCA’s project. Michele Roveri from the studio took part in the official presentation. However, the basic conformation of the 91 x 50 foot (28x15 m) court will never be altered. Thanks to a rapid assembly and disassembly system, the space can be modified to have a different seating capacity or for better visibility of the court, this ensuring maximum efficiency for every configuration of the facility, from sports to exhibitions, events, and shows. In designing the stands, the seats were brought as close as possible to the playing area to improve the spectator experience. But the seating is also retractable to expand the space available for other types of events.
Typical of most modern arenas in Europe and America, the project pays particular attention to the spaces intended for graphics and advertising, integrating them into the design without interfering with visibility.
Locally sourced, natural, recycled, and recyclable materials, efficient technologies and processes, regular maintenance, and selective demolition and recovery of end-of-life materials and components are just some of the measures that will make the new arena efficient and green. To optimize energy consumption and try to neutralize emissions, particular attention will be paid to the management of renewable energy sources and water resources.
The importance of this project also stems from its impact on the local area. Piazza Aldo Moro will take on an even more central role, both by attracting people who’ll be able to use the space before, during, and after exhibitions and sporting events, and by designing an entrance to the clearly recognizable pavilion. The project also includes the redevelopment of the piazza itself, with green furnishing elements to enrich the existing space.
To build the new complex, which will be completed by Christmas 2024, the exhibition facility and team owner Massimo Zanetti will set up a special purpose company, which will invest 55 million euros in the project.
Location: Bologna, Italy
Architect: MCA-Mario Cucinella Architects
Completion: in progress
All images courtesy of MCA-Mario Cucinella Architects