Definitely… Maybe

by Chris Clements | Posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2015

I recently wrote an article for Stadia Magazine on the trials & tribulations currently besetting stadium development in Spain. With the halcyon days of “build now – pay later” a fading memory, the country’s major clubs and municipal councils have developed a more cautious approach.

Given the state of the Spanish economy, it’s hardly surprising that stadium development over the past 5 years has been at a premium. Athletic Club de Bilbao has of course opened the impressive new San Mamés and… well, that’s about it. However, there is a glimmer of hope, and not surprisingly it centres on the four biggest and most successful clubs in the country.

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I am the one and only… San Mamés opened in 2013, but is there more to come?

The Camp Nou maybe a place of worship for Barcelona’s worldwide support, but it is outdated and has little of the infrastructure that one expects from a club of this stature. In January 2014 the club announced a €600m redevelopment. Beginning in the summer of 2017, the rebuild will tackle the principle problems that currently exist at the Camp Nou; namely sightlines, cover and corporate revenue. The first phase will see the realignment of the lower tier. Then a new ring of corporate boxes will be built, which will add 3,500 VIP seats along with improved media facilities. Between 2018 and 2020, the North & South Grada’s will be extended. The summer of 2020 will see the old roof removed and another tier added to complete the bowl. Finally, in 2021, a cantilevered roof will be constructed to cover all four sides of the stadium. The new capacity will stand at 106,000. Read more about Barça’s plans for the Camp Nou here

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Ch-ch-changes – Barça want to be a richer man

As Spain’s most successful club on the pitch, Real Madrid, has often acted as a trail blazer off it. Their Santiago Bernabéu home has undergone a series of major redevelopments since it opened in 1947. The latest plans, first announced in January 2014, have however run aground. The problems centre on land given to the club by Madrid City Council as part of a deal to settle outstanding debts. It soon became apparent that the council had no right to cede this public land. The redevelopment was suspended by the Madrid Supreme Court in August 2014 after the European Commission revealed it was looking into allegations of illegal state aid. Finally in February 2015, the Madrid Supreme Court repealed the original planning permission, leading to Real Madrid officially suspending the €330m project. Read more about Real Madrid’s troubled redevelopment plans here

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“I guess I’ll have to change my plan”

The story of Valencia’s quest for a new stadium is one of repeated woe. Timing, fate and circumstance mean that the club do not play in a state of the art stadium. Instead, they are left with sky-high debts and a skeletal hulk that has passed as their future home since 2009. New owner, Singapore businessman Peter Lim, has been at best cautious about the future of the new stadium. He did visit the site in October 2014, but only stated that the club will celebrate its centenary in 2019 with “new stands”, which could mean redevelopment their existing Mestalla home. Whilst it may seem incredulous to spend €100m on a stadium and walk away, it isn’t as straightforward as starting up again at the Nou Mestalla. The site has been exposed to the elements for six years and will require major investment just to get it back to a point where construction can continue. Read more about Valencia’s predicament here

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Nou Mestalla – Ain’t gonna happen any time soon

Finally, we have some tangible evidence of work in progress. Atlético Madrid is currently building a new stadium to the North East of Madrid on the site of the Estadio La Peineta. Funded by the sale of their Vicente Calderón home and a rather complicated debenture scheme, the club hope to be in situ by the summer of 2017. The stadium features the upper tier of La Peineta’s only stand, thus reducing cost and nicely breaking any boring symmetry that can be the bane of modern stadia. The remaining three sides will feature four distinct levels, raising the final capacity to around 70,000. The stadium will feature all the corporate, media & retail facilities one associates with a modern European football arena. Read more about Atléti’s future home here

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Steady as she goes – Atléti are closing in on a new home

A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of Stadia Magazine – The international review of sports venue design, operations & technology.

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ESTADIOS DE ESPAÑA - STADIUMS OF SPAIN