Barcelona already has plenty to boast about, including Europe’s largest soccer stadium, currently seating 98,000 Messi, Neymar and Xavi fans, but club officials want to ensure that boasting never stops with the announcement Monday of plans to rebuild Camp Nou into a larger and more modern facility.
While completely dismissing earlier plans of constructing a new stadium on a new site — a 2007 Norman Foster plan was never fully adopted and deemed too expensive — Barcelona still plans a $702 million upgrade, completely overhauling the 56-year-old venue by increasing seating to 105,000, adding a partial roof and re-imagining the façade while building a new basketball arena on site as well.
“The option of building a new stadium on a new site has been dismissed as the final cost could well mortgage the club and its members and tie the hands of future boards,” club president Sandro Rosell said at a Monday press conference. “The board has decided that the best option is to stay in Les Corts.”
It all starts in 2017 without a displacement to any Barca games.
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Not technically a new stadium, club officials claimed during a press conference from Spain, they did admit it would effectively look like one by the time they’ve finished building it: Both inside and out. The idea of adopting Foster’s grandiose plan, either on a different site — Avenida Diagonal — or by tearing out Camp Nou, was alluring, but in the end proved too costly, both in scope and because it required the removal of the structures that support the stadium in non-match day revenue, Rosell said. Instead, the board will go to the club’s members for an April 5 through 6 referendum on the rebuild.
Rosell says in order to keep pace with top European clubs, Barcelona needs a new venue to attract fresh revenue.
“To continue leading the field, we need to take this historic step, which will guarantee the comfort of a new stadium with the most up to date technologies for its users and our sports people,” Rosell says. With competitors developing new venues, Barcelona didn’t want to lose out on match-day money, especially from new hospitality suites.
A complete redo of the lower tiers will bring seats closer to the pitch and make space for new restaurants and “super boxes.” And that fancy new partial roof should both serve to create “modern comfort,” as well as add some noise-making atmosphere. More details will emerge as the April vote nears, the club promises.
“The Camp Nou is part of our collective memory,” Rosell says. “It is the largest stadium in Europe and is an icon of the city of Barcelona.”
By early 2021 Barcelona plans to freshen up that collective memory.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.