Sustainable & Successful: Johan Cruijff Arena

Henk Markerink
Johan Cruijff Arena
– Henk Markerink
CEO of Johan Cruijff Arena
As part of the launch of Pollstar‘s Magna Charta, our box office data broken out for Europe, we spoke with the heads of some of the leading companies on the various charts. Amsterdam’s Johan Cruijff Arena came out on top in the stadium ranking with 445,586 tickets sold based on the box office reports submitted to Pollstar between Feb. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2019. We reached out to stadium CEO Henk Markerink to talk business.
Its location in Amsterdam, the (entertainment) capital of Holland, guarantees the Johan Cruijff ArenA a constant influx of visitors. “The location is important,” Markerink said, “if there’s a concert on in our venue, people make a day or even an entire weekend out of it.”
The venue’s main tenant is AFC Ajax, one of the country’s most successful soccer clubs. Still, around 50 percent of the stadium’s revenue comes from other forms of live entertainment. “Our venue is very well-equipped to host live shows given its [retractable] roof, hospitality facilities and great parking. It’s comfortable for the people.
“What is more, it is a compact venue. 55,000 to 60,000 people fit in for big concerts, but you are close to the stage. These are just a few aspects that make live shows entertaining in our space,” he said.
Markerink was very involved in the design of the arena – as he was in the design of other stadiums around the world, including the Birds Nest in Beijing, the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, and others. “Johan Cruijff ArenA is designed as a multi-functional stadium. We spoke in great detail with the organizers of concerts,” he explained.
“Mojo, Live Nation, is our most important partner in concerts. We looked very carefully at the logistics, backstage, how to accommodate productions with 100 to 120 trucks and ensure a smooth load in and load out.” Thanks to the close cooperation with Live Nation, backstage facilities, dressing rooms, catering facilities were part of the building from its opening in 1995.
Powered by the sun
Johan Cruijff Arena
– Powered by the sun
The stadium’s solar panels collect enough energy to run night-time events. The energy collected also serves as backup power.
The Johan Cruijff ArenA is a beneficiary of the current live entertainment boom in Europe. “Concerts, in general, sell out very quickly,” Markerink said, adding that the number of touring artists was fluctuating in some years more than in others. “When the big stars are touring, we have 10 to 15 concerts, in other years it might only be five or six. But if you look at the long run, if you look back at all the years, there has been a steady flow of concerts.”
Having regular national and international anchor tenants like Dutch supergroup The Toppers or regular EDM gatherings like the Amsterdam Music Festival certainly helps. “If you look at the number of concerts and festivals, there is an enormous choice for customers,” said Markerink, adding, “all together it makes for quite a steady flow of business.”
The arena is a leader in sustainability. When Ed Sheeran played the stadium at the end of June last year, the energy for the show came from the buildings three-megawatt battery, which is charged by 7,000 square meters of solar panels installed on the roof. The battery also serves as backup power for all events, instead of a diesel generator used in most buildings for this purpose.
“We also changed our lighting system, the main lights in the stadium, to LED. This system is fantastic to create show light,” Markerink explained, adding that the new lighting has opened up new possibilities in terms of entertaining guests.
Said Markerink: “When Ajax played Real Madrid [on Feb. 13], we created a little light show, which we couldn’t do with the old lights, which had to cool down for 20 minutes before you were able to turn them on again.
“Now we can play with the colors, Andre Rieu gave a live performance before the game started. So you could say that even a football match is increasingly becoming a live show. It’s a combination of sports and entertainment.”