Status Report: Camp Nou renovation plan gains momentum behind the scenes
After much fanfare during the design competition, Camp Nou renovation work takes shape beyond public glare as architects fine tune the masterplan and matters regarding cost, schedule, safety and capacity get sorted out, reveals William T. Mannarelli, Director for Real Estate at FC Barcelona (Espai Barça), in an exclusive interview with Coliseum.
The design for Barcelona’s future Camp Nou stadium was unveiled with much fanfare in March 2016, following a fiercely contested design competition over the previous nine months. The competition which kicked off in June 2015 with a total of 26 initial bids narrowed down to the final winning design by the century-old Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei in collaboration with the local firm Pascual i Ausió Arquitectes.
While the work on the renovation project was initially expected to begin in early 2017 with a completion date of 2021, bureaucratic delays have pushed the project by at least a year. A masterplan proposal has been handed over by the LaLiga club to the city’s town hall, which will be discussed and then decided upon with the aim of regenerating their stadium and wider facilities within the next five years.
“We are still in the process of negotiating the finer aspects of the plan with the city. Barcelona has a big government. Right now we have the green light from the majority stakeholder in the government to meet with other political parties to present the project. We are hoping that by the end of July this year, we’ll get the political go ahead,” FC Barcelona’s Director for Real Estate William T Mannarelli told Coliseum in an exclusive interview.
“Once we achieve that milestone, that would be fantastic – a great position for us to be in,” he quipped.
The Camp Nou will be remodeled during the project, with another mini-stadium, Estadi Johann Cruyff, built nearby, and the club’s Board of Directors hope that things can get underway as early as Summer 2018, which should see the plan come to fruition by the end of 2022.
“If everything goes incredibly smoothly, and we would be trying to be optimistic in this business, that means that we would be acquiring for licenses at the start of 2018, and then begin some of the preliminary construction works in the summer of 2018. If we can do that then we’ll be on top of our objectives,” said Mannarelli.
“Non-glamorous” works set the foundation
But it is not as if there’s no activity on the project. Away from the public eye and media publicity that was the hallmark of the design competition, there are “non-glamorous” but crucial works taking place to ensure that things move smoothly, once the work begins on Camp Nou remodelling.
“The architects have identified the preliminary works. These are very targeted planning works that were not part of the competition but which deal with high risk issues. These are not glamorous works. We are looking at various things which are not what you would consider frontline items regarding the competition but very relevant to continue to develop the project in a meaningful way [such as] considering cost, schedule, safety and capacity [of the project],” Mannarelli said.
Giving a low down on the issues at hand, he said: “For example in the stadium, we are studying the possibility of making the access ramp wider and taller to accommodate the vehicles and the mobile cranes that we need to deliver the roof. We are looking at issues regarding transformers, electrical rooms, service rings, new power supply and fire strategy for instance.”
Stressing that the architects and their teams are drowned in work, Mannarelli explained, “Obviously they (the architects) are also helping us coordinate various issues regarding the masterplan. We want to make sure that the project gets off to a smooth start and that it is under our budget and schedule as we submit for licenses. It’s actually huge what we are doing now.”
“There’s a lot of other dirty little detains in there and we are trying to clean up now so that’s the name of the business at the moment,” he quipped.
Mannarelli revealed to Coliseum that in addition to the Camp Nou renovation, plans are on to build a hotel and an office complex in the extended zone. “As part of the project masterplan, we are re-zoning and re-qualifying 6,500 square metres of ground area. We are negotiating with the city to develop that piece of land into a hotel and an office complex with a total area of 30,000 square metres. That is a part of our project.”
However, he categorically rejected the idea of referring to the project as a district on the lines of District Detroit. “Our idea quite simply is to create a sports campus that is integrated into the city with a public space and to ensure that the daily operations on match and non-match day work successfully. We are making sure that the campus is attractive enough to attract visitors on non-match days.”
Mannarelli also dismissed the idea of having a nightclub, aquarium or other spectacular site within a stadium. “I don’t think we are very gimmicky. The stadium is [a destination in itself]. Camp Nou, for instance, is a stadium for pure enjoyment of the best football in the world. And why would I try to confuse that experience on match day with other attractions?”
“That doesn’t mean however that we don’t make efforts to attract visitors on non-match days. We have our museum and we keep organizing things of interest there on non-match days. Also, for example we’ll offer a skywalk around the top of the stadium so you could look all over Barcelona. But these are attractions that do not compromise the football experience. On the contrary, they absolutely enhance the non-match day experience,” he said.
The plan however includes having a FCBotiga (Megastore), several new restaurants and around 3,200 underground parking spaces. “We will also have our Botiga and there will be other commercial interest restaurants etc. and various other services to ensure that our fans have the best experience possible on match and non-match days,” Mannarelli added.
Barcelona’s iconic stadium will stay in its current location close to the Avinguda Diagonal, which runs through the heart of the city. The renovation will the seating capacity of the stadium increased from slightly more than 99,000 to over 105,000. The addition of extra seats makes the prospect of part of the stadium being closed while work is carried out far more likely in the case of the Barcelona project.
The cost for the stadium is estimated at €360m, part of a €600m overall budget for Espai Barça which includes a 12,500 capacity, multipurpose Arena where the basketball team will play, the 6,000 capacity Estadi Johann Cruyff, a new Headquarter Building, all serviced by a 3,200 space underground parking facility and new roadworks around Barça’s Les Corts Campus.
The exterior of the stadium will be transparent showing a three-ring structure. And the adjoining Espai Barça Campus will include a 12,500 seater Basketball venue built on the site of the current Miniestadi where the B Team plays. The B Team will now play at the Sant Joan Despí, out-of-town training ground. There will be two new video scoreboards and the club promises a roof over all the seats so spectators will stay dry as they see the game.
From the pages of history
Barcelona has explored renovating the Camp Nou stadium for over a decade. A 2007 Sir Norman Foster plan was abandoned, because it required Barça to sell a large portion of their property in les Corts. The original idea of constructing a brand-new facility at a different location took a turn when a 2014 announcement showed the club’s intentions to fully renovate Camp Nou where it stood and add a new basketball arena on the property of the current Mini Stadium.
While not technically a new stadium, club officials and new renderings show that it will effectively look like one by the time they’re done. Both inside and out. Initial plans called for seats with better sightlines in the first tier, new restaurants and “super boxes.” The roof canopy will create both a more comfortable viewing opportunity for fans while enhancing the atmosphere.
Camp Nou is currently the largest stadium in Europe and the second largest in the world. It has hosted two European Cup and Champions Leagues finals in 1989 and 1999, five matches including the opening game of the 1982 FIFA World Cup™ and the football competition final at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
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