Stadium developments – the boom continues


Having examined the prominent developments of the past 5 years in the UEFA confederation (30 venues with at least 20k seats each, where financial data were available), the list includes 11 projects in Russia (host of the FIFA World Cup 2018), and eight in Turkey, an earlier contender to host the UEFA Euro 2024. Turkey had bid along with Germany, but UEFA’s Executive Committee selected Germany last year. A further six developments have been completed in Central and Eastern Europe, while only five projects were delivered in a “big five” league country: two in France and one each in Spain, Italy and the UK.

Focusing on capacity, Moscow’s reconstructed Luzhniki national stadium is the only new venue with over 70,000 seats, while there are another five arenas with a capacity of over 60k seats. The Baku National Stadium in Azerbaijan (69,870 seats), host of the 2019 Europa League final, is followed by Zenit St. Petersburg’s Krestovsky Arena (68,134), which will host the 2020–21 UEFA Champions League final. This group also includes the most recent development, Hungary’s 68,000-seat national stadium, Puskás Arena in Budapest; Wanda Metropolitano, the new home of Atletico Madrid (67,703); and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London (62,062). Three of these venues (Baku, Budapest and St. Petersburg) will also host four matches each during the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 tournament. Lyon’s new home, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, is not far behind with a capacity of 59,286 seats.

The most common seating capacity among the 30 new stadia considered is in a range of 40-50,000 (nine such new venues), while there are seven stadiums with a capacity of between 30-40k and seven venues of 20-30k seats.

As the host of the last FIFA World Cup, Russia dominates the “upper tier” of this list, having seven new stadiums with a capacity of 44k seats or more, while all the new venues in Turkey have less than 44k seats. Turkish football can benefit from an ongoing government-led nationwide stadium development program to build “30 stadiums in 27 cities”, which has already seen over two dozen stadia completed in a decade. While many of these venues are small, some were developed with a vision to host international tournaments.

Regarding development costs, it is apparent that size matters: a larger stadium usually would cost more per seat, mainly due to higher costs for supporting structures for larger upper tiers and a wider roof, the need for more elevators, premium seating and parking. Indeed, the seating capacities of all the new venues examined, whose development costs exceed EUR 400m, are in a range of 60k seats or more.

However, the required capital expenditure varies significantly and depends not only on stadium size but also on factors such as the quality of materials, functionality aspects, location and the development status of the surrounding infrastructure. The most expensive venue, Tottenham’s new home, for example, cost almost three times more than Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano, and over twice as much as the new Baku arena, whereas both latter venues have more seats than the Spurs stadium.

Tottenham’s new venue leads the pack considering development cost per seat as well (EUR 14,800/seat). It is not only one of the largest stadiums in the Premier League, but also features the world's first dividing, retractable football pitch, which unveils a synthetic turf pitch underneath for NFL games (watch a video about it here). It offers stadium-wide connectivity, is the first cashless stadium in the UK and, as a multi-purpose venue, hosts concerts and other events, too. The other outstanding development regarding cost per seat was the VTB Arena in the Russian capital – the complex includes a football stadium, home of Dynamo Moscow, and an indoor ice-hockey arena. The football stadium has 27,000 seats but can be expanded up to 45,000, while the complex has a shopping and entertainment centre, office buildings, apartment buildings and a 5-star hotel, too. Further developments with high cost per seat include Zenit’s new arena in St. Petersburg (at EUR 12,500/seat), CSKA Moscow’s new home, VEB Arena (EUR 9,400 /seat) and the Puskás Arena in Budapest (EUR 8,970/seat).

The chart below lists the top ten recent stadia projects with the highest development cost per seat.

By contrast, Wanda Metropolitano (EUR 4,579/seat) or the Vodafone Arena in Istambul, home of Beşiktaş (EUR 3,400/seat) both had a significantly lower cost per seat. Also, most of the venues built in Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe were relatively inexpensive by comparison. Timsah Arena (in Bursa, home of Bursaspor, with 43,877 seats) and Senol Günes park (in Trabzon, home of Trabzonspor, with 41,761 seats) were the 13th and 16th largest venues built in the period under consideration but had an estimated development cost per seat of EUR 2,100 (23rd) and EUR 2,000 (24th), respectively. The Allianz Stadium in the Austrian capital, the new home of Rapid Wien, also represents a modest investment (EUR 53 million overall cost, 28k seats and a cost of EUR 1,900 per seat).

This chart lists the ten recent stadia projects with the lowest development cost per seat.

Despite the large number of venues inaugurated in recent years, the renovation, reconstruction or development of new stadium infrastructure remains a challenge for many European clubs and countries. As the development cost of major venues – designed to meet strict UEFA and FIFA requirements to host world-class events – continues to increase, another major challenge is the evaluation of the risk and return of capital investment projects, such as stadium and training complexes, and the potential integration of residential or commercial real estate into the concept to improve the financial sustainability of a stadium development project.

Meanwhile, there are many stadium developments either already under construction or still being proposed.
Although outside the UEFA confederation, Qatar deserves a mention when speaking about current stadium developments, as the country is in preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Eight stadiums in five cities will host the event. Two have already been completed, both 40k-seaters: one renovated, and one newly built. Six other stadiums are progressing towards completion, including the 86,250-seat Lusail Iconic Stadium, which will host the opening and final matches. All stadia will have advanced, open-air cooling technology, and most will be modular – the upper tier of several venues will be removed following the tournament to decrease capacity.  

In Spain, Barcelona plan to redevelop Camp Nou to make it the world’s second biggest football stadium, with a seating capacity of 105,000, second only to the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea, which has 114,000 seats. Plans include adding a roof and implementing 5G mobile technology, the first stadium ever to do so. The estimated EUR 360m upgrade is to start next year and to be finished by 2023. Real Madrid also aim to revamp Santiago Bernabeu by 2022: the estimated EUR 550 million project would contain a retractable roof and a new commercial area, which is expected to generate an additional EUR 150m in annual revenue for the club. In Valencia, construction work has been on and off at the 54,000-seater new Nou Mestalla since 2007, mainly due to financial difficulties. However, the club aims to start the 2020/21 season in their new home.

In England, the city of Liverpool may be a centre for development in the coming years. Everton is set to leave Goodison Park, their home since 1892, and move to the new, 52,000-seater Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium in 2023. Work is to start next year. City rivals Liverpool are considering expanding Anfield by an additional 6,000 seats, taking total capacity to over 60,000. In South London, Crystal Palace also aim to expand Selhurst Park – the ageing Main Stand will be replaced with a new 5-story stand, increasing the capacity by 8,000 seats to more than 34,000. The project is estimated to cost between GBP 75-100 million and is scheduled to be finished by the beginning of the 2020/21 season.

Italy, known for having several older and bigger stadia with lower utilization figures, can boast many ambitious redevelopment plans. AS Roma, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Inter Milan all plan to move to newly-built stadiums. The two Milanese giants plan to jointly develop a new, 60,000-capacity stadium to be completed for the 2022/23 season, after almost 100 years at San Siro. The city would prefer San Siro be revamped, while the two clubs are proposing that a new venue be built next to the current iconic one for an estimated EUR 650m. AS Roma are set to leave Stadio Olimpico and build a new 52,000-seat stadium, but work has not started yet. A similar situation in Florence, where the new owners of Fiorentina are aiming at developing a new arena by 2023. Other clubs are planning to redevelop their current venues. Atalanta are renovating their archaic stadium, opened in 1928, also to boost capacity from 21,300 to 24,000. On the other end, Bologna have announced plans to reduce their stadium's capacity from 31,000 to 27,000 in a complete redevelopment of the Dall’Ara, opened in 1927.

The Netherlands will see the construction of what is to be the country's biggest stadium: a new, 63,000-capacity venue for Feyenoord will open in Rotterdam in 2023, replacing the historic, 51,000-seat Stadium de Kuip, opened in 1937.

In Germany and France, the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and the 2016 UEFA Europe Cup in France had led to several stadium revamp projects, therefore, currently there are only a few major developments. Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin are aiming to move away from their current home, Berlin’s 74k-capacity Olympiastadion, built for the 1936 Olympic Games – their proposed new 55k-seater Fussballarena (5k above current average attendance) is to be completed by 2025. SC Freiburg are to move into their new, 34,700-seater stadium next season. Interestingly, a recent local court rule prohibited the club from staging night fixtures or hosting Sunday-afternoon matches (between 1pm and 3pm), amid concerns over noise – a situation that points to a potential new set of challenges for the football world.