Arena del Río to leave a lasting legacy


Colombia Arena del Rio in focus during Coliseum Latam Image: Arena del Río

Arena del Río is one of the largest urban development projects and entertainment hubs in Latin America. It will play a major role in the economic development of Barranquilla in Colombia and the Colombian Caribbean. The arena is expected to go on stream in three years’ time from now.

Tatyana Orozco, CEO, Arena del Río, Colombia, shares with ‘Coliseum’ exclusive details as regards the project which is going to totally transform the entertainment quotient in Colombia and the whole of Latin America. She also shares inside facts on the regulatory issues challenges vis à vis the development in Colombia.

Tatyana Orozco stated that entertainment districts are the (in) thing and felt, “Added attractions in an arena have become imperative for the crowd to flow in. The arena should be so built that it is able to beckon people not just on a matchday or when a concert is held but the whole year through”.

Project details:

  • Arena del Río will be located in Barranquilla in Colombia and will be close to three international airports;
  • More than an arena it is an entertainment district per se;
  • Huge roofed area with a capacity for 50,000 spectators;
  • The arena price tag stands at USD$450 mm;
  • Two Way Stadiums, a US-based company which operates mainly in the infrastructure sector, is developing the largest entertainment district in Latin America for sports and music events;
  • One of the world’s leading engineering firms AECOM has designed the most innovative and technologically advanced stadium and sports cities for future generations; and
  • UMusic Hotels is coming to Barranquilla in order to support the culture and music as an ecosystem in the arena. It is the operator of the arena in Barranquilla.

Added Orozco, “The UMusic Hotels will go much further than simply managing the Arena del Río complex. UMusic Hotels will be an integral part of the culture and music eco system of Barranquilla. It will convert the arena into a creative platform for Colombians thereby fostering and promoting the sustainable artistic community.”

Orozco informed that before zeroing in on Barranquilla, Two Way Stadiums scouted for sites in different countries like Mexico and Argentina, and also in Colombia, to find that “perfect” site for the entertainment district.

Why Barranquilla?

  • Barranquilla is a City to the North of Colombia and is sandwiched between two tourist hotspot Cities – Cartagena and Santa Marta;
  • Barranquilla’s carnival is the biggest celebration of folklore in all of Colombia and is one of the world’s largest carnivals, with more than a 100 years of tradition and attracts humongous crowd which includes tourists; and
  • Barranquilla boasts rich cultural heritage.


People speak

Colombian actress Sofia Vergara had this to say, “Arena del Río is one of the greatest developments for entertainment in Latin America and it brings us up at the same level with the capitals of the world and it also makes us stand out as a City. Thank you so much to those who have made this possible. Arena del Río is a major step in our development as a City, as a country and as a region. As an artiste, a native Barranquillera, a Colombian, I am very proud to see projects like this become possible. Here we will finally be able to enjoy the most incredible events that have never taken place in Latin America before.”

Édgar Rentería, CMO, Two-Way Stadiums, affirmed, “We believe in great dreams to build a country. This is why we are bringing Arena del Río to Barranquilla.”

Fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi said that Arena del Río will serve as a model for the development of the country and for the region.

Paulina Vega, Miss Universe, 2014, said that Colombia will become the main destination for entertainment and sports in all of Latin America.

Destination unto itself

Barranquilla will be the music and entertainment destination of the entire region. A unique and state of the art multifunctional complex which will enhance the live entertainment experience.

Project features:

  • Arena del Río will come armed with a five-star hotel, production and recording studios, commercial and retail spaces, business club and much more;
  • The state of the art Arena del Río complex is an entertainment structure sitting on 31 hectares of prime real estate in the heart of Barranquilla.
  • The multifunctional stadium will have a seating capacity for 53,000 spectators with the flexibility to adjust to different-size events including the ability to cover the upper levels with LED images for smaller size crowds;
  • The arena will enjoy a retractable soccer pitch that can be stored four meters below the surface area;
  • The arena will feature numerous dressing and locker rooms for teams, referees and entertainers;
  • State of the art hydraulic system that will convert the pitch to a performing stage concerts;
  • A 500-hotel room with huge commercial areas like casino, the apartment blocks and with production spaces to facilitate producing cinema besides the sports arena;
  • The centerpiece will be the sports venue with a soccer field which will be complying to FIFA standards and will also be used for concerts; and
  • The Arena del Río with access from land or water will be a 24-hour 365 day living complex. A place where people will come together to celebrate, cheer, laugh, and dance all together.

Averred Tatyana, “We are developing an entertainment district and not just an arena with investment close to 450 mm dollars. We are going to build huge amount of square meters.”

Challenges faced

Added Orozco, “With a project of such a vast proportion, it is inevitable that we face challenges and we did on various fronts like in design and architecture, financing, and regulatory frameworks. The greatest challenge was to obtain licences and permits to build the arena.”

She further informed that regulations in Cities of Colombia “are quite tough and look into the most subtle details like what purpose the land is going to be used for, lots of dos and don’ts regarding where a structure can come up and where not, the construction size, environmental aspects, height of the building, etc. These are huge challenges.”

Taking on challenges:

  • In-depth study of the regulatory issues as the head honcho said, “We had to thoroughly study all the norms, all the regulations, not just with lawyers but with the architects’ team as well as the design team in order to be able to understand exactly what the norm is all about. If you read the laws on land use, then you need to go deep inside that law and regulation and understand why the City came up with such laws and regulations.”; and
  • Take on the regulatory challenges head on but at the same time stick to the rules and regulations.

Orozco maintained that the rules and regulations of the City in terms of land and land use are being followed by them to a ‘t’. The CEO and her team dived into several rounds of meetings with the City Council, the local environmental authorities as well as held series of meetings with lawyers and attorneys as well as architectural teams.”

Lessons learned

  • To recognize the importance of the public sector support. She added, “We convinced the City Council that this project would generate jobs and boost tourism and if we wouldn’t have been able to convince them, the project would not have started.”;
  • “We were very flexible in terms of identifying the changes that we had to make to the project so that the project would be viable.”; and
  • Always work with an open mind and one should learn to listen and send the right communication across and communicating both ways with the different shareholders and key players along the whole process.

In three years time from now, Arena del Rio will prove to be the pride not just of Barranquilla but the whole of Latin America – a place where people will not just be able to ‘Meet and Greet’ but also rediscover themselves while enjoying a game or a concert or any other event and at the same time soothing their frayed nerves.

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