Bukit Jalil Stadium: A full preview
Built in 1998 for the Commonwealth Games, Bukit Jalil Stadium is the heart of Malaysia’s sporting precinct that also includes a hockey stadium, an aquatic centre, an indoor stadium and a squash arena.
Having hosted the Asian Cup in 2007 and exhibition matches involving English sides such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal in the past, the stadium needs no further introduction. It was also named in FourFourTwo’s 100 Best Football Stadium in the World last year.
The Bukit Jalil that many are accustomed to, however, will be a memory as a two-phase redevelopment of the area – before and after the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur – is set to put the KL Sports City onto the Asian sporting map in coming years.
Singapore’s iconic Sports Hub is expected to have a decent rival less than an hour’s flight away.
Phase One, which involves a facelift for the stadium and other sporting facilities in the area, ends in July 2017. The stadium is not set for major changes under Phase Two, but massive redevelopment is planned on surrounding land till 2021, making the stadium’s use not feasible.
Thus for half a year in 2017, the Bukit Jalil Stadium will offer a glimpse what’s in store when the dust eventually settles.
Is it all about the size?
Officially, Bukit Jalil stadium can seat 87,411 people – the largest in Southeast Asia after the Gelora Bung Karno in Indonesia had a reduction in capacity in 2007 – but it is no secret that the highest turnout may well have exceeded six figures as thousands have been seen on stairways, corridors and even encroaching the media tribune during high-profile matches in the past.
The construction of a new level of corporate boxes is set to push the capacity to 90,000. If history repeats in terms of overcrowding, the numbers could soar higher again.
The new level – Level 3M – is being constructed between the existing second and third tiers on the same side as the grandstand and can only be accessed from the stadium lobby.
The stadium is a sure bet destination for European clubs looking to make Southeast Asia a pit stop to widen their fan base and exploit commercial gains. There simply isn’t a suitable larger stadium in Asia, unless North Korea is on their radar.
With major redevelopment plans taking place in the vicinity starting in 2018, a lot of effort has been put in to ensuring the 18-year-old stadium still stands out.
Bukit Jalil will get a new facade, a silver vertical structure to move away from its naked look of old. At night, that facade can turn into a light show and be colour coordinated to suit the occasion.
Mmore landscaping is planned around the stadium to encourage the public to consider the venue a location for an evening stroll.
Changing rooms, a warm-up area, walkways, access gates and media areas are being redesigned while the stadium’s lobby underwent a restructuring to cater for newly-installed escalators and lifts to the corporate boxes.
Spectator seats are also in for a change to meet current Fire & Safety standards.
The stadium also gets a new athletics track but the football pitch remains, something Malaysian Stadium Corporation (MSC) insist is being well taken care off despite on-going renovation.