A lot has gone into building the world’s largest cricket stadium, which President Ram Nath Kovind will inaugurate here on Wednesday. MV Satish , L&T’s Whole-time Director and Senior Executive Vice-President (Buildings), reveals how the confluence of technology and imagination overcame the challenges in building the Motera Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad. Excerpts:
For an infrastructure and construction player, how does it feel to build the world’s largest cricket stadium in India?
It was extremely challenging and equally gratifying. In terms of size and scale, this has been without parallel. L&T has a history of creating defining sports infrastructure, such as the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in Chennai, built in a record time of 270 days, and refurbishing Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium in time for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. We are therefore proud of having created history yet again by building the world’s largest cricket stadium.
What kind of challenges did you encounter for a complete revamp of an existing stadium into a new, multiple-times bigger one?
Our biggest challenge was to construct a new stadium with a seating capacity of 110,000 on the same site of the older stadium that had a capacity of 35,000. We started the humongous task of constructing an elliptical or oval-shaped stadium with the detailed design for architecture, structure and allied services.
Considering the speed and scale we had to achieve, we adopted pre-cast technology as the construction method to speed up construction.
What technology was used to speed up the construction of this mammoth project and complete as scheduled?
The entire superstructure of the stadium is made up of huge, unequally shaped ‘Y’ columns that are 30 meters in height, 2.7 meters in width and weighing some 285 tonnes that were all pre-cast as one-piece, transported and erected at an extremely logistically challenged project site. The execution of structure steel roof with pre-stressed cables and PTFE fabric for the roof were other difficult tasks in which structure steel, cables and fabric design and execution teams had to interface for perfect execution.
The roof has about 1,000-meter perimeter length, 10.5 m height truss, 30 m cantilever, and is provided at an elevation of about 40 m from ground level. Planning and executing the movement of men, material and machinery were huge tasks considering the site was surrounded by residential complexes with even a temple within the site premises.
What architectural references of arenas did you consider while designing it?
The benchmark was the Melbourne Cricket Ground in terms of size, features and facilities; also, some other cricket stadiums around the world. Cricket being a spectator sport, it was imperative to construct a stadium that enhanced viewing experience by offering the audience a 360-degree unobstructed view of the field of play from any given location on the podium. It required much detailing and precision in our space planning and engineering.
Credit also goes to our appointed architects, Populous, who came out with such an innovative design that made it look extremely simple. As one climbs to the upper seating bowl, one experiences the panoramic view of the field of play, gradually offering a vista experience.
What are the firsts in construction of this stadium?
Apart from being the world’s largest cricket stadium, this is the first Indian stadium to have as many as 11 different pitches that have been curated by a well-known cricketer chosen by the client, the Gujarat Cricket Association, with the same soil used for both the playing and practice pitches. There are four sets of dressing rooms for the players, each with an in-built gymnasium and other facilities.
It is the first stadium in India to have LED lights that are uniquely designed and placed in clusters that will eliminate shadows of the players on the ground. The stadium is the only cricket stadium in India to be awarded the Gold Green Building rating by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).
Looking at the future possibilities, won’t the traffic congestion and quick public evacuation become a limitation when the stadium reaches to its full capacity with many visitors using cars?
The free movement of a lakh-plus people is certainly a challenge. We had close to one lakh spectators for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event in February 2020, which was effectively a stern examination of our facilities. That so many people were able to smoothly enter and exit the facility gives us the confidence that this will not be an issue when matches start to be held to full capacity.