Florence Mayor firm on Franchi revamp


Italy Florence stadium update Jan 2020 Image: ACF Fiorentina

First it was – the Italian professional football club ACF Fiorentina declaring that ‘it’s curtains’ for the revamp work of their residence – Stadio Artemio Franchi – as they were fed up with too much of red tape surrounding the whole project. And now, the Mayor of Florence (Italy), Dario Nardella, has stated that the Franchi will be revamped.

Mayor Nardella has reiterated the municipality’s commitment to the Stadio Artemio Franchi stating that an international competition will soon be launched to find a partner to conduct “one of the most important restyling interventions” in the world.

Nardella was speaking after Fiorentina President Rocco Commisso slammed a ruling from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBACT) that states the Franchi cannot be demolished or undergo a major redevelopment due to its historic status.

The decision marked the latest blow to the Serie A football club’s long-held ambitions to either redevelop the Franchi or move to a new facility elsewhere in Tuscany. MiBACT ruled that while redevelopment of the Franchi will be permitted, this will be limited to aspects such as setting up a roof and bringing the stands closer to the pitch.

The 43,147-capacity Stadio Artemio Franchi is a football stadium in Florence, Italy. It is presently the home of ACF Fiorentina.

ACF Fiorentina is an Italian professional football club based in Florence, Tuscany, Italy.

The Franchi is owned by the Municipality of Florence and in response to MiBACT’s ruling, Fiorentina said the onus was now on the authorities to deliver improvements, adding that for the club the Stadio Franchi project is “closed”.

In response, Nardella said his office will take on the Franchi project, stating that there is still the ability to deliver a reconfigured venue that meets modern standards.

“From now on, we will work hard to bring to the City of Florence a stadium that matches sporting ambitions,” asserted Nardella before mediapersons.

Added Nardella, “In the ministerial (MiBACT) decree there are some openings that can be exploited: The first concerns the interventions that serve to adapt the stadium to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) regulations; the second point, which we will exploit, is the possibility of creating commercial areas. Then there is the possibility to create new stands and cover the stadium.”

He continued, “For the first time there are official acts where we are told what can and what cannot be done at the Franchi. We take note of Fiorentina’s decision not to invest in the stadium, at this point we will do it alone. The stadium is owned by the Municipality of Florence, and we cannot afford not to honor the history of the City and for this stadium to be abandoned.”

Indeed, Nardella explained that a two-phase process has already begun to spruce up the Franchi. The first phase is all set to run from February to September, with €1m (£891,000/$1.21m) to be expended to address structural issues. The following year will see €7m spent on seismic improvements.

Nardella maintained, “The second phase is the actual restyling, for which we have decided to open an international competition, of the highest level, which will allow us to give the City of Florence a result of the highest quality. We want to carry out one of the most important restyling interventions in the world. The competition will be presented this year.”

The Mayor maintained, “We want to be sure that the most effective and most innovative project can win, we aim to create a new Franchi, keeping its history and at the same time building a modern and innovative, ecological stadium. We want to get the assignment by 2023 so work can be started by the end of my term.”

He asserted, “There will be no burden on the budget of the Municipality of Florence and of the citizens, we will look for lenders. Our goal is to find a zero-interest loan, and already I have made contact with the European Investment Bank, the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Istituto per il Credito Sportivo.”

‘It’s curtains’!

Earlier, the Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBACT) came in for a lot of flak for its ruling that spells out that the Stadio Artemio Franchi cannot be torn down or undergo a major repurposing work due to its historic status.

Fumed Commisso, “With the new Salva Stadi law, I believed that for Italian football, especially at this time of serious crisis for the whole country, the Government could take a more useful direction for the future of the football system and the Italian economy in general.”

Added a disappointed Commisso, “Unfortunately, I see there is more interest in preserving a dilapidated 90-year-old reinforced concrete structure than allowing fans to attend a sporting event with all the modern amenities and comforts of a state-of-the-art stadium that Florence would have deserved.”

The club President continued, “Now I imagine that the Italian bureaucracy, together with all the parties that have been strongly activated to highlight at MiBACT the need to save Franchi… will be equally quick to collect the necessary funds that the Municipality will need to renovate the stadium. It will be absolutely necessary to avoid the Franchi becoming an abandoned and dilapidated structure in the heart of beautiful Florence.”

The Franchi has served as the digs of Fiorentina since it went off the ground in 1931 and efforts to either rehabilitate the facility or build a new stadium caught pace after the club was taken over by the Italian-American businessman Rocco Benito Commisso in June 2019.

Indeed, in August the City Council of Florence greenlighted a resolution to pursue repurposing of the Franchi through wider development of the Campo di Marte area in which the stadium sits.

At the time, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella said the resolution aimed to “give a signal of concreteness and speed” to the “construction of a new stadium in the City”, following the collapse earlier in the year of a plan to build a new venue at the Mercafir site.

The Franchi was designed by the celebrated Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi and the chorus was growing to ensure the iconic historic aspects of the arena were preserved. Prominent modern-day architects such as Tadao Ando and Norman Foster were amongst the signatories of an appeal letter against the pulling down of the Franchi delivered to Mayor Nardella by the Pier Luigi Nervi Project Association.

In March, Fiorentina confirmed it would not participate in the public tender for land earmarked for a new stadium at the Mercafir site, as Commisso stated he remained committed to developing a new home in the local area, despite the challenges presented by laws in the country.

The Mercafir area, a food and beverage market in Northeastern Florence, had been zeroed in for the new stadium site, with the proposal seeing the land divided in two. The facility would have occupied the Southern part of the land, with a new market being developed in the North.

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