AS Roma venue plans get buried under red tape



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AS Roma stadium plans died Image: L'industria di Architectura srl

The die is cast – the Italian Serie A football club AS Roma is no longer going ahead with its plans to build a new stadium in the South of the Italian capital – Stadio della Roma. The club’s new American billionaire owner Thomas Daniel Friedkin dropped the ambitious Tor de Valle project plan like a hot potato saying it was dogged by too much of “red tapism and political interferences”.

Following the announcement, James Pallotta, former owner of the club, had tweeted, “I feel terrible for the City of Rome and Roma. A few jackasses (you know who you are) ruined a great project for all. Sad.”

‘Chiessa Di Totti’ reported that the whole development has been kind of jinxed from Day One – apart from getting stuck in red tape and too much of political interference, several other issues like the height of the stadium to ecological matters have come in the way of work getting started on the project which has been in the works for almost a decade now.

Stadio della Roma was the temporary name for Serie A team AS Roma’s planned stadium in the Tor di Valle neighborhood of Rome.

AS Roma is an Italian professional football club based in Rome, Italy. Founded by a merger in 1927, Roma has participated in the top-tier of Italian football – Serie A – for all of their existence except for the 1951-52 seasons.

AS Roma’s residence is the 72,698-capacity Stadio Olimpico – the largest sports facility in Rome, Italy. It is located within the Foro Italico sports complex, North of the City. The structure is owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee and it is used primarily for association football.

The Texas (US)-based Friedkin Group announced the acquisition of 86.6 percent majority stake in the club in August 2020 after US billionaire Dan Friedkin – who is the Chairman of the Group – struck a deal worth more than $700 million to purchase the Italian top-flight club.

Following the acquisition the then club President and owner James Pallotta and other members resigned from the Board of Directors.

Friedkin, after about six months of gaining ownership rights over AS Roma, said recently that he wanted a smaller 45,000-seat stadium. He felt that it was better to start afresh on the whole development rather than pursue a project on which COVID-19 and bureaucratic overdose has cast their long shadow.

‘Chiessa Di Totti’ further reported that the announcement of the project being dropped by the Board of Directors came when releasing the club’s financial results for the first half of the 2020-21 seasons. The club said the decision was made by the AS Roma Board of Directors keeping in mind the greater interests of the club:

  • The ownership of AS Roma intends to invest, in order to be competitive, in a winning team that can play in a new modern and efficient stadium;
  • The Board of Directors based on the in-depth analysis conducted by the advisors financial, notary and lawyers of primary standing, as well as in the light of the latest communications from Roma Capitale, has verified that the conditions to confirm the interest in using the stadium to be built no longer exist as part of the current real estate project relating to the Tor Di Valle area, the latter project having become impossible to execute;
  • The Board of Directors – after examining the analyzes carried out by the advisors on the matter under the financial, economic, legal, and factual conditions of the project and of the relative proponent – acknowledged that these conditions prevent further progress;
  • The Board of Directors also noted that the pandemic has also radically changed the international economic scenario, including prospects financial statements of the current stadium project. This decision was made by the Board of Directors in the interest of the company, recalling that the same would be the mere user of the system, and it was communicated to the Administration of Rome Capital; and
  • Having said this, the company confirms its intention to strengthen dialog with the Administration of Rome Capital, the Region and all the relevant institutions, the universities of Rome and the sports institutions, to create a green, sustainable stadium and integrated with the territory, constructively discussing all the hypotheses, including Tor di Valle, and evaluating all the possible initiatives to protect the interests of the company, of all its shareholders and its fans.

 

Final nail in the coffin

The land for the Tor di Valle, where the stadium would have been built along with an adjacent business development district, was sold in October 2020 to CPI Property Group, a Luxembourg-headquartered commercial real estate firm owned by Czech billionaire Radovan Vitek. This made the asset “unavailable” to the proponent that is to Eurnova of Luca Parnasi, who were to build the planned venue, and had earlier owned the land.
 

A dream shattered

The new stadium, with the temporary name of Stadio della Roma, was to have been built in Rome’s Tor di Valle neighborhood about halfway between downtown and Fiumicino Airport. It had been designed on the ancient Colosseum of Rome.

Seating capacity was planned for 52,500 spectators, with the ability to expand to 60,000 for larger events. The stadium had been designed by American architect Dan Meis and included luxury boxes and state-of-the-art amenities. If the venue plans would have gone ahead, the stadium would have enjoyed an edge over ‘La Magica’s’ present residence – Stadio Olimpico. There was to be no athletics track and the sightlines were projected as the best in the world because of the height and angle of the seating arrangement.

James Pallotta, former President of AS Roma had said after the proposal had been submitted, “This is an important day for the Stadio della Roma and for the Tor di Valle project. The project will have a significant economic and social impact for the team, for the fans, for the City and for the country. An incredible job was done to finalize the documentation, now we look forward to taking the next step and building a stadium that Rome can be proud of.”
 

What went down the drain?

The documents of Tor di Valle project and its centerpiece Stadio della Roma that builders Eurnova delivered to the Municipality of Rome and the Lazio Region where Rome is located, in both paper and electronic format included over 3,500 project drawings and more than 50,000 pages of specialist reports.

The final dossier had been the result of the joint work and skills of over 500 specialists in the sector, including engineers, architects and consultants belonging to more than 50 national and international professional firms.
 

Scam-riddled

A corruption scandal had led to the arrest of nine people involved in the construction project for Serie A club AS Roma’s proposed new stadium, including Luca Parnasi, owner of the construction company Eurnova, who were in charge of building the new ground. Charges included offering bribe to public officials.

Also arrested were Adriano Palozzi, Vice-President of the Lazio region where Rome is located, regional councilor Michele Civita and Luca Lanzalone, the head of municipal electricity company ACEA, who had worked closely with Rome Mayor Victoria Raggi in the ongoing approval process.

AS Roma will not be content playing in Stadio Olimpico and indeed a new stadium remains a critical component of Friedkin’s plans for ‘La Magica’. The club has almost crossed swords for a decade with the various Mayors of Rome, councils and planning commissions that eventually led to the club cancelling its venue plans.

But, Friedkin still has a lot of fire in his belly and intend to continue engaging with authorities “to create a green, sustainable and integrated stadium in the future” without specifying a time frame.

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