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News: DGB Daegu Bank Park Nominated for Stadium Award

DGB Daegu Bank Park Nominated for Stadium Award
Daegu FC's DGB Daegu Bank Park stadium has been nominated for an award by StadiumDB.com as one of the best new stadiums built in 2019. Daegu FC's growth on the field has mirrored that on it with the team reaching new heights following the 2018 Korean FA Cup triumph and foray into the AFC Champions League the following year. 

StadiumDB.com., a Poland-based football stadia website, has selected DGB Daegu Bank Park has one of 21 stadiums from 19 countries for voting in the Stadium of the Year 2019 Award. Michał Karaś, the website's Editor-in-Chief, explains more.

First of all, could you please tell us more about your website? I read that it is now in its 10th year, how long have you been on board?

StadiumDB.com. was established under a different name in Poland back in 2001. I joined in 2005 and since then we've managed to create something I consider special, with a network of fans and contributors around the world. It's still not perfect and we all have other jobs, so there's always something out of date, but we're striving to do as much as we can. Stadium of the Year came in 2011, so we're celebrating the 10th anniversary of the competition, which is basically a response to our community's demand.

Have you always been interested in football stadiums? Do you have a particular favourite yourself?

I'm relatively new to football altogether, my first fascination came in 2001, when I was already 19. I finally got to watch some games and discovered the phenomenon outside the field. Whenever I saw a game on TV, I would focus on flags, chants and reactions of the crowds. And thus the fascination with these temples that help cultivate that part of human culture.

There are some really beautiful stadiums that are among the nominees this year, how do you choose which ones are selected?

From the very first edition we keep a minimum set of requirements and don't judge ourselves – that part we leave to the people and jurors. Because every year roughly 30-40 stadiums open around the world, we allow most of them to be included, as long as they meet the basic criteria. While they may seem impossible to compare at first, we think there are simple ways to compare them.

For the Jury it's about what was achieved within existing constraints, not about who spent the most or built the biggest stadium. For the public it's about the 'wow factor' – both online and within communities living around the stadiums. That's why locals often vote actively in some cases, while they ignore the vote in other, when they're really not in love with the building. Differences tend to be quite strong. For example, we've learned that West Ham United or Atlético Madrid fans are very mixed about their new stadiums, while in other cases fans consider the stadiums nearly a place of worship, as with Asunción's Cerro Porteno in Paraguay, which had supporters even building the stadium.

What in particular do you like about Daegu's stadium and what do you think sets it apart from other stadiums?

First of all, it's part of a major shift to more compact stadiums that allow clubs to grow. Korea suffered from an issue common among many mega-tournament hosts. That is: too big stadiums not only don't push development of football forward, they may discourage it by being impossible to fill. And hard to generate revenue at.

Daegu FC's safe standing area located in the South Stand at DGB Daegu Bank Park.
Daegu is a great proof of what is needed. After all, the new stadium brought an attendance increase of over 250% in one season. The stadium offers good conditions to deliver a rowdy atmosphere with the south stand's standing area and overall compact layout. Also, while it is simple structurally, it's not boring or basic. The forest identity and undulating roof make it one of a kind and it surely can be a source of pride for locals, even if not perfect.

In K League, low attendances, or what can look like empty stadia, can be an issue because many of the teams play in such large stadiums that were built for the World Cup. As a stadium expert, do you think that what Daegu have done is a must for all K League teams? In your experience, can you see a pattern in the growth of a football club with a suitably sized stadium?

Absolutely. Daegu aren't the first ones, one of my favourite stadiums is that of Incheon United. It's very Korean in design, while also being quite European in the matchday experience it offers to create. Some of the 2002 World Cup stadiums were built with running tracks and aren't even close to the urban football stadium concept. Scaling investment for the needs of FIFA (or UEFA, AFC, etc.) rather than local demand is always problematic.

Whether you look at World Cup venues or even Euros, in every edition there's a case of a stadium that is far too big and may discourage growth. That's why I think Korea should – and I think they are – look at MLS, where large stadia were scrapped in favour of smaller projects, far better for their tenant clubs.

The information you gather and display on your website about so many stadiums is really impressive. How are you able to compile all this information together? How large is your team of writers/contributors?

Because we're all working aside from running the site, it's all very fluent. So while there are two people overlooking the site every single day, there's a network of helpers who contribute what they can. We also see great openness from external sources, from clubs, authorities to groundhoppers and regular fans who, for example, go on 20 away games every season and then share their photos and experiences. Because it's updated manually, the site always has something in need of updating but we just like it, so the 'work in progress' state isn't a major issue.

Have you seen a trend in people becoming more and more interested in the stadiums themselves, not just the football? Groundhopping, for example, has become very popular in the last 10 years.

And social media encourage that, of course. We now even have football influencers known simply for visiting stadiums. It's fascinating to watch. I personally love stadiums particularly when packed but for logistical reasons cannot visit them as often as I could. Still, I visit my favourite groundhoppers' websites and profiles literally every day, sometimes with actual envy that they have the stamina to work, live and on top of that do 50-60 stadiums per year.

Voting for Stadium of the Year 2019 runs in two phases. The first stage will narrow the 21 stadiums down to 10 finalists, then a winner will be revealed on March 18th. Voting can be done via StadiumDB.com.

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