Turn back to the past, face the future: Kōtō-ku and the development of the coastal area


Last Sunday, February 2, a Tōkyō 2020 New Permanent Venue was inaugurated. Ariake Arena (有明アリーナ), located in Kōtō-ku’s Ariake 1-Chōme district, was built on a lot of approximatively 36,576m2. The facility counts five floors above ground, is 37 metres high and has with a total surface of about 47,200m2 a maximum seating capacity of 15’000, including temporary seating. 

It comprises a Main Arena and a Sub Arena and will host the Olympic Volleyball tournaments over a period of 16 days with the women’s final on August 9, the last day of the 2020 Olympics, followed by the Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball tournaments from August 27 to September 6, day of the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games. 

The building structure and the Main Arena’s surface are made by concrete. Large parts of the ceiling and walls, covering about 800m2 are made of timber and a temporary wooden floor will be set up during the Games. The Sub Arena, reaching over two storeys (Japanese 1F & 2F) has a permanent wooden floor and will serve as a preparation- and training space for the athletes. 

Ariake Arena, owned by the Tōkyō Metropolitan Government (TMG), was built from March 3, 2016 to December 9, 2019 with a budget of around 37 billion yen, or USD 336 million (as of January 2019). The design and construction were realised by Takenaka Corporation (main operator), Toko Electrical Construction Co. Ltd., Asahi Kogyosha Co. Ltd. and Takasago Thermal Engineering Co. Ltd. 

The arena has particular characteristics such as a concave roof and an exterior that slopes at a 12-degree angle to allow progressively larger surface on the upper floors while offering more deck space outside, and around 30 species of plants that green the south side wall. The venue follows the so-called barrier-free standards, easily accessible to all, including the elderly, people with impairments and parents with young children. It has universally-designed toilets and wheelchair-accessible seats with enough height difference between the rows of seating to ensure that everyone should, theoretically, see clearly. To the contrary, it is striking that most of the regular permanent seats are rather adapted to bodies restrained in both height and volume, and do not leave much space for storage.  

Considered being one of Tōkyō 2020’s potential lasting legacy, Ariake Arena shall after the Games become a new centre for sports and culture, hosting national and international tournaments as well as concerts and various cultural events. As a matter of fact, it will be the first arena in Japan to be operated as a concession. Under the Act on Promotion of Private Finance Initiative (PFI), this scheme allows the public body to grant concession rights to private agents who operate facilities and collect service fees from users. In this purpose, the TŌKYŌ ARIAKE ARENA INC., a Special Purpose Company (SPC) was established through the investments of Dentsu Inc. (representative firm), NTT Docomo, Nippon Kanzai Co. Ltd., Amuse Inc., Live Nation Japan, Dentsu Live Inc., Asics Japan and the cooperative firms (that do not involve any investments towards the SPC), NTT Facilities, XROSS SPORTS MARKETING INC., and Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc. The compensation for the right to operate public facilities is approximatively yen 9.4 billion (USD 86 million) including tax. 50% of the profit after this compensation and before income tax will be paid to the TMG.

Within a period of three months after the Games, several temporary equipment installed by Tōkyō 2020 will be removed and parking lots will be developed. The following five months, parks will be created, and the outside of the arena will get reshaped. In June 2021, the venue shall be handed over to the facility operator, who will then launch additional (interior) construction investments such as setting up restaurants, cafés and large screens. Ariake Arena shall finally be opened to the public in August 2021. The concession period is scheduled from Reiwa 3 (2021) to Reiwa 28 (2046) and will therefore run on a 25-year contract. Subsequently, the concession may either be extended, or a new contract with another operator may be established. 

On the occasion of the Ariake Arena’s opening, officials, media and some 3’000 prior registered spectators gathered together. Entering this brand-new facility may for many (whether or not they are architecture interested, sports fan or Games supporting) have provoked an unusual feeling of excitement. Indeed, there is something about setting foot in a vast new space, about smelling fresh wood, (concrete and paint). There is also a feeling of being part of the first who get to see what has been hidden behind construction walls and fences, as only a fifth of the Olympics expected audience number.

The inauguration was held in a rather small format yet was not lacking solemnity. Tōkyō Governor Koike Yuriko’s and Kōtō-ku mayor Yamazaki Takaaki’s speeches were followed by a time-lapse video of the arena’s construction, the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, and performances of the Japan’s female national volleyball team and the male wheelchair basketball team. The traditional shishi-mai lion dance, the ostentatious background music and the final mini-concert of J-Pop band AKB48, not only served to test the arena’s sound system (and the security’s communication), but also reminded of the permanently highlighted correlation of Japan’s tradition and modernity in the promotion of the Games. The careful explanations about the stadium and the quietly held tour proved once again the country’s awareness and sense of hospitality. 

It is to mention that this may have been one of the only times before the Games that general public got the opportunity to access the venue, as Tōkyō 2020 will conduct construction works of temporary infrastructure and hold several test events in the upcoming months. 

Together with other facilities, Ariake Arena is seen as an important element contributing to the urban development of the surrounding area. The nearby Tōkyō Aquatics Centre, last 2020 New Permanent Venue under construction, shall be delivered this month and inaugurated in March 2020.

The outside of Ariake Arena 02/02/2020 © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena, Main Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Wood meets concrete, Ariake Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena, Main Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena, Sub Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Barrier-free washrooms, Ariake Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

Ariake Arena, sketch of location

The outside of Ariake Arena 02/02/2020  © Louise Claire Wagner

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