From India’s Kabaddi World Cup winning campaign to the dominance of Gujarat Fortunegiants at home, The Arena in Ahmedabad now has a special place in kabaddi annals.
A stadium is not only a turf for two rival teams to play on but it also serves as a repository of many joyous or heartbreaking moments. With the VIVO Pro Kabaddi bandwagon travelling to newer cities this season, we take a moment to reflect back at Ahmedabad and Gujarat Fortunegiants’ very own The Arena by TransStadia. The indoor stadium has been witness to one of the greatest moments of Indian kabaddi when the home team lifted the World Cup in 2016. Returning to kabaddi action with their own team in Season 5, The Arena again witnessed some mesmerising moments during the Ahmedabad leg with the Fortunegiants tasting incredible success. Prokabaddi.com got in touch with Udit Sheth, Founder and Managing Director of TransStadia, for a free-wheeling exclusive interview and he graciously gave some new insights into the venue. Here are some excerpts.
Tell us about The Arena.
The Arena is one of the most dynamic, advanced facilities in the world. It uses a combination of technologies to enhance capacities to suit events while ensuring the field of play is not affected in any way. This way we have the most adaptable facility in the world with a utilization of over 70% per annum. The Arena has been intricately planned keeping in mind players, the broadcaster and the fans, so that the overall experience is immersive and simple. Turnaround times are quick, while spectators have the same facilities they would get if they went to the movies. We have bolstered The Arena with strong commercial platforms such as a members’ club, a centre for sports science and academies, retail and hospitality. Overall this project has been envisaged as a new city centre model. The Arena has transformed Ahmedabad. It has changed the way people live, play, interact and has brought in a strong sense of togetherness in the community. Today, thanks to the Arena, Ahmedabad comes together and cheers.
How well equipped is The Arena?
The Arena by TransStadia uses world-class technology for stand convertibility from StadiArena UK, and seat retractability by T-Box, both patented technologies. At the press of a button, a part of the outdoor stadium converts into a pillar less 32,000 sq ft indoor air-conditioned arena within minutes. The technology includes StadiDoor, vertical lifting doors, similar to aeroplane hangar doors, which drop down from the front of a stadium stand, enclosing the stand and turning it into an indoor space.
With an environment-friendly structure, wheelchair accessibility, sports rehab centre and hospitality boxes, we can fit it out as we like for different sports, including kabaddi. Our stadium is designed keeping in mind that players, spectators & broadcasters have a seamless integrated immersive experience at our advanced facilities. I have been speaking to the players, the broadcasters and the fans – everyone is excited. The players love training and playing in this integrated facility replete with sports facilities. The broadcaster loves the plug and plays set-up, where they are able to bring the fans to the edge of the action. The atmosphere that this creates for a new sport is that it looks great on TV and the on-ground vibe is energetic. The Arena is the best for any sport. No other facility in India brings the fans to their feet like The Arena.
Tell us also about the experience of hosting the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup.
KWC 2016 was a watershed moment for The Arena and for Gujarat. Never before had Gujarat hosted a world event, and to bring it to The Arena was a huge coup. The stadium was full to capacity the entire fortnight and it was a frenetic atmosphere. From our company standpoint, we very quickly learned from Star the international best practices for hosting such world events in terms of hospitality, fan management, player management, broadcast and more. Hosting the Kabaddi World Cup at The Arena last year was a thrilling and learning experience. To be able to showcase to over 120 countries what the new urban India stands for was unprecedented and fantastic for the sport and for us as a company.
What impact the World Cup and Gujarat Fortunegiants have had on the fan following in the city and state at large?
When you have an arena in the middle of the city, bringing fans is easy. The KWC showed India and the world that Gujarat loves the sport and loves kabaddi. Eight months later, when Gujarat had its own home team, Star had already laid the base as the community had tasted the fun of the live sport. Children and adults alike were jostling for the tickets and we now are ready to usher in more and more events. We believe Pro Kabaddi with its new expansion is a very mature league and has a national appeal like no other sport. It's managed professionally and has no controversies. That is fantastic for the sport.
Tell us about your connection with the sport of kabaddi.
Growing up I haven't played much of the sport, but last year’s Kabaddi World Cup was a great eye-opener. Now I’m a fan and I understand the athletic prowess required to play this sport. It's an intensely physical sport and really keeps me glued to the action.
Which is your favourite team and who is your favourite player in VIVO Pro Kabaddi Season 5?
Sukesh [Hegde] for Gujarat is a great player with superb presence and body language and is an inspirational leader. Like him, there are many others who have their pros and cons. It's fun to see how the Indian national team is spread across franchises and how they are all leading from the front. It's also nice to see some strong Korean and Iranian players. They are immensely fit and Indians need to up their fitness to keep their World Cup.