Cagliari Calcio baptism by fire venue project


Stefan Melis at Coliseum Summit US 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Stefano Melis is all perked up as he is optimistic that the new home of the Serie A club Cagliari Calcio – likely to be called Stadio Riva which is still under construction in Cagliari, Italy – will be completed by the start of the 2025-2026 seasons.

And he has reasons to cheer about as the entire venue project had got caught in the COVID conundrum and still they have managed to bring the development “back on track”.

Melis is the Managing Director of Cagliari Calcio, Italy, and he is very proud about the fact that Cagliari is the “eighth most loved team in Italy” and the full-of-pep top official informs that about two months back the team got upgraded to “Serie A where we belong”.

Stefano Melis who holds the designation of Managing Director at Cagliari Calcio is a part of the leadership team and is responsible for the marketing aspects of the top-flight club.

Stefano Melis, Managing Director, Cagliari Calcio, Italy, reveals in an exclusive to ‘Coliseum’ how the top-notch club’s new home project was “in the doldrums” when COVID struck the world in March 2020 and how it was almost a back-to-the-drawing-board kind of scenario for them due to the COVID ordeal.

Cagliari Calcio

The Cagliari Calcio, commonly referred to as Cagliari, is an Italian football club based in Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy. In the 2023-2024 seasons, they compete in Serie A, the top of the Italian football league system. The team are temporarily playing their home games at the 16,416-seat Unipol Domus, the temporary stadium built in 2017 in four months time, adjacent to their future new stadium site. Cagliari Calcio played at the 16,000-capacity Stadio Sant’Elia in Cagliari from 1970 to 2017. The stadium was demolished at the end of the 2016-2017 seasons and was replaced by the Unipol Domus.

Stadio Riva

The new stadium for Cagliari Calcio is called Nuovo Stadio Cagliari. It is being built in place of the now-demolished Stadio Sant’Elia. The new stadium is also known as the Cagliari Arena, or the Stadio Riva. The stadium will be named after the club legend Gigi Riva. The club has also signed a 10-year agreement with the Italian financial services holding company Unipol to name the new stadium, which could be called Unipol-Gigi Riva when it opens.

Stefano Melis started off by stating, “The new stadium is a strategic project for us and our focus is also on developing the area which will skirt the facility.”

He lamented, “The Stadio Sant’Elia held few of the fixtures when Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990 and after that the arena fell into a state of total disrepair.”

Melis informed that in 2017 they decided to build a temporary venue – the Unipol Domus and “it was built in a record time of 127 days”.

He added, “We want the new home of Cagliari to be a sustainable arena which will offer avant-garde facilities to the fans. The arena is strategically located as it is lodged in the very heart of the City Cagliari and is a stone’s throw away from the City Center and at the same time also a shouting distance away from the main beach of the City. The new stadium will have a capacity of 25,000 and room will be left for capacity expansion up to 30,000 so that we can host all the European soccer showpieces and the big ticket events.”

COVID Challenge

Narrated Melis, “COVID-19 struck the world like a bolt out of the blue in the year 2020 and our entire venue project was thrown off the kilter. Due to the pandemic, the prices of raw materials saw a dramatic rise and the local entities requested us to revisit the venue project. The City too was bearing the brunt of the virus from the economic point of view. To keep the cash registers jingling, a main pivot of our project was the 20,000 sqm of shopping mall. But we had to start again from a scratch and make the entire development a little more compact.”

The new venue will boast a four-star executive business hotel and quite a few eateries and also “we will build the revenue by holding Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) events, a kind of business tourism that will attract travelers from all over the globe and also create a networking platform for businesses.”


Though a full-of-challenges project but Stefano Melis wrapped up on a positive note by stating that “Since Cagliari has been shortlisted among the Cities that potentially could host the EURO 2032 which Italy will host along with Turkey, we are keeping our fingers crossed that the new home of Cagliari Calcio will be one of the venues for the soccer extravaganza and our stadium is definitely going to be one of the stadia in Italy which Gen Z will swear by.”

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