IAI Stadium Nihondaira, or simply I-A-I for short, is a football stadium located in Shizuoka. Home to J-League’s Shimizu S-Pulse, one of the youngest professional teams in Japan, the 20,339 capacity stadium has won multiple awards for the quality of the playing surface.
Nihondaira Stadium first opened in 1991 with a capacity of 13,000 and was used to host the football matches of the annual All Japan High School Athletics competition. It was expanded two years later to 18,500 in anticipation of Shimizu S-Pulse moving in for the inaugural J-League season in 1993.
Owned by Shizuoka City, Stadium Nihondaira has undergone a couple of name changes over the years as S-Pulse look to generate some additional revenue. Firstly the ground was known as The Outsourcing Stadium between 2009 and 2013, and more recently the city has struck a deal with IAI Corporation who manufacturer industrial robots. This five year deal became effective on 1st March 2013.
Despite being one of the youngest teams in Japan S-Pulse are slowly but surely developing a proud footballing history of their own. They are one of four teams to have played in every season of Division 1 since the J.League final, and they have made over 10 final appearances in total, laying claim to both the Emperor’s Cup and J.League Cup trophies.
The highest level of football held at IAI Stadium Nihondaira to date has undoubtedly been matches of the Asian Cup Winners Cup and the Champions League. Shimizu S-Pulse defeated Al-Zawraa to lift the trophy in 2000, and later made it to the group stages of the 2004 ACL where they faced Dalian Shide, Seongnam Illhwa Chunma and Osotsapa FC.
IAI Stadium Nihondaira is famous for having a stand which is only covered by three quarters of the roof. Whilst there has been much speculation as to the reason behind this including the idea that it is to allow an unrestricted view of Mt Fuji from Suruga Bay, the reality is that a undersized access road has made construction impossible.