Is this the Real life? Is this just fantasy?

by Chris Clements | Posted on Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Real Madrid’s proposals for the renovation of the historic Estadio Santiago Bernabéu were always going to court controversy. In January 2015, the stadium’s naming rights were sold to the Abu Dhabi investment group IPIC. Then little more than a month later came the news that the redevelopment had hit a major obstacle and plans would be suspended. This was as a result of the Madrid Regional Supreme Court decision to remove planning permission, following the European Commission’s investigation into some dodgy land dealings. Sounds familiar? Some would say that the club has form, citing the controversial sell of the Ciudad Deportiva, which paved the way for the building of the club’s impressive training complex at Valdebebas.

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Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above

When Florentino Perez returned for a second spell as president in 2009, and after the seemingly mandatory purchase of more galicticos, his thoughts turned to the next phase of stadium redevelopment. In January 2014, German architects GMP’s design won an international tender. Their design featured a retractable roof, additional corporate facilities, a hotel and shopping complex, but tellingly, little if any change to the overall capacity of the stadium. What would need to change is the stadium’s foot-print. The renovation required the stadium to expand outwards and Perez thought that this issue was resolved as long ago as 1998.

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Mo Money, Mo Problems

Back then, as part of a deal to between the two to settle outstanding debts, the city council handed over a parcel of public land called Las Tablas, then valued at €425,000. When it discovered in 2011 that it should not have been given to the club, Real Madrid was compensated with the land around the Bernabéu, estimated to be worth around €23m.  However in 2013, it became apparent that the council had no right to cede this public land, as under Spanish law public land can only be exchanged for public land.  The redevelopment was initially 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 Finally in February 2015, the Madrid Supreme Court repealed the original planning permission, leading to Real Madrid officially suspending the €330m project.

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Money makes the world go around. Well, we have to wait & see

On 11 October 2016, Florentino Perez and the Mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena, formally announced plans that resolved the restrictions that the Supreme Court had imposed 20 months earlier. The amended plans ensure that any modernisation of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu will be upwards, and that the footprint of the stadium will not encroach on to publicly owned land.  In addition, the public areas around the stadium would be enhanced. The reduction in area means that the project will no longer include a hotel. Club offices at the stadium will be moved to the training facility at Valdebebas, whilst the existing shopping centre will be demolished. An area between the stadium and the Castellana, currently used as a car park, will be landscaped and incorporate a public square.


Expand & Deliver – All systems go for the new-look Bernabéu

Crucially, many of the stadium’s “Wow Factors” remain. The retractable roof still features, as does a 360° video screen that will be suspended from the fixed portion of the roof. The club’s museum, one of the most visited in Madrid, will also be extended. The capacity will remain at 81,044, but there will be some reconfiguration of the seating plan, most notably the extension of the upper deck on the eastern side of the stadium. The delay and the alterations will see the cost of the project rise to €400m, but with IPIC picking up the tab, this should not impact impact on the the club’s acquisitions (transfer bans permitting). Work is due to commence in the summer of 2017.

As always, estadiosdeespana will keep you up to date with any developments on the future of the Bernabéu