HSP brass tacks on Latin America venues


Rob Hunden findings on venues in Latin America Image: Hunden Strategic Partners

Hunden Strategic Partners (HSP) is a full-service real estate development advisory practice specializing in master feasibility studies for transformative destination assets.

Based in Chicago (US), Hunden Strategic Partners role is to focus on market financial feasibility studies, economic and fiscal impact analysis, owner’s rep in general, real estate advisory for these major real estate development projects that includes the stadiums and arenas as well as the mixed-use and the entertainment districts that surround the same.

In an exclusive with ‘Coliseum’, Rob Hunden, President, Hunden Strategic Partners, US, gives a broad overview on the sports and entertainment facilities in Latin America.

Rob Hunden commented that Latin America is a collection of countries which has not been covered much and their company is excited to “dig into Latin America and introspect on what is happening”.

International venues database

The most comprehensive database created by Hunden Strategic Partners includes over 400 stadia and more than 120 arenas worldwide.

Hunden shared that this year’s database for Latin America “We are looking for football facilities of 35,000+, rugby of 35,000+, and cricket of 35,000+.”

Football is religion in Latin America and people follow it with a passion. Most of the large new venues are home venues for clubs in their respective top leagues.

Current top performing leagues in Latin America:

  • Copa Libertadores (47 clubs) – an annual international club football competition, it is the highest level of competition in South American club football;
  • Copa América (South American Football Confederation [CONMEBOL, 10-16 clubs) – the main men’s football tournament contested among national teams from South America; and
  • Champions League (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football [Concacaf], 16 clubs).


Stadiums built by decade in Latin America

It is a big time in transition in renovation for all kinds of facilities. Only 14 of these 71 major venues were built after 2000. The vast majority are more than 20 years old. In over half were built prior to 1980. A lot of these have begun to undergo significant renovations and redevelopments or will need to do so soon.

Who’s got the most stadiums in Latin America?


Number of stadiums with capacity over 35,000 per country:

  • Brazil is at the top of the heap with 18 of those facilities. Rio 2016 expedited the construction of venues and Brazil presently boasts 18 Copa venues with over 35,000 capacities.
  • Argentina occupies the second slot at 14;
  • Colombia and Mexico each at seven;
  • Venezuela – six; and
  • Peru at five and then goes down from there


Top five largest venues:

  • Estadio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With a capacity of 79,000, it was built in 1950;
  • Estádio Nacional in Brasília, Brazil. With a capacity of 72,800, it was built in 1974;
  • Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil. With a capacity of 67,000, it was built in 1960;
  • Arena Castelão in Fortaleza, Brazil. With a capacity of 63,900, it was built in 1970; and
  • Estadio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. With a capacity of 62,000, it opened in 1965.

Brazil, just like Argentina, enjoys a rich history in football. This is the country with the most registered players, the most clubs and the most stadiums in South America. Brazil is the only team to participate in every World Cup competition ever held. Its most iconic stadium ‘the Maracanã’ (also the biggest), once held the record attendance of 199,854 spectators.

Hunden observed, “In fact, all the above venues (barring one) are pre-1974 in terms of them being top venues. Football is a religion in this country because it is the only country to participate in every World Cup ever held in its most iconic stadiums and also the biggest and almost 200,000 people packed into ‘the Maracanã’ which is really thrilling.”

He pointed out that Formula 1 in UK (British Grand Prix held at the Silverstone Circuit) recently had 1, 40,000 people stretched all along the course but the fact that there is 200,000 in a stadium is “pretty amazing”.



Venues over 35,000 capacities – 14


Top five largest football venues:

  • Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires. With a capacity of 79,000, it was built in 1950;
  • Mario Alberto Kempes in Córdoba. With a capacity of 57,000, it opened in 1978;
  • La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. With a capacity of 54,000, it opened in 1940;
  • Ciudad de la Plata in La Plata. With a capacity of 53,000, it was built in 2003; and
  • Presidente Perón in Avellaneda. With a capacity of 51,400, it was built in 1950.

Football is the most popular sports in Argentina. Around 326 registered football clubs play in the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and there are 250 other regional leagues that are affiliated to AFA. Argentina is home to some of the most legendary stadiums in South America like the ‘Monumental’ and ‘La Bombonera’ both in Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, 14 venues again and most of these are “pretty aged”.

Hunden further observed that barring North America, in other venues around the world, the pristine sheen and the history attached with venues count a lot for which total overhaul of venues are not done at a time and the same are partially redecorated and “one does not see complete rebuilt venues one does as much in North America”.



Top football venues over 35,000-capacity: 9


Top five largest football venues:

  • Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. With a capacity of 88,000, it was renovated in 2016;
  • Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City. With a capacity of 72,000, it was built in 1952);
  • Estadio Jalisco in Guadalajara. With a capacity of 56,700, it was built in 1960;
  • Estadio BBVA in Guadalupe. With a capacity of 53,500, it opened in 2015; and
  • Estadio Cuauhtémoc in Puebla. With a capacity of 51,700, it was renovated in 2015.

Mexico is home to the largest stadium in Latin America, the Estadio Azteca, which hosted the final of the World Cup back in 1986. Mexico’s men’s football has four tiers of clubs in the following order of level of competition: Liga MX, Liga de Expansión MX, Segunda División de México, and Liga TDP. The two largest stadiums of the country are located in Mexico City.

He pointed out, “Mexico is doing a lot right now with a variety of facilities”.

Colombia & Peru


Total football venues over 35,000 capacity: 6 Colombia, 5 Peru


Top five largest football venues:

  • Estadio Monumental ‘U’ in Lima, Peru. With a capacity of 80,100, it opened in the year 2000);
  • Monumental de la UNSA in Arequipa, Peru. With a capacity of 60,000, it opened in 1995;
  • Monumental de la Palmaseca in Palmira, Colombia. With a capacity of 52,000, it opened in 2010;
  • Estadio Metropolitano in Barranquilla, Colombia. With a capacity of 46,800, it opened in 1986; and
  • Atanasio Girardot in Medellín, Colombia. With a capacity of 45,900, it opened in 2017.

With 10 stadiums with 30,000+ capacities and a total of 57, Colombia is one of the few countries in South America where all, or most of the stadiums, are owned by the country itself, taking a page out of the Italian model. Although Peru only has five stadiums that surpass capacity of 35,000, the Estadio Monumental in Lima is the third largest in Latin America.

Medellín actually has a very new venue – Atanasio Girardot. Colombia boasts 10 stadiums with 30,000 + capacities and a total of 57 stadia and Hunden pointed out, “So, there is a lot even though it does not have the largest per se. Colombia even though it does not boast many of the largest stadia, but it has many smart facilities”.

New builds – stadiums on the horizon

  • Arena MRV Belo Horizonte in Brazil. With a capacity of 46,000, its price tag is $110 million and scheduled opening is 2022;
  • Nuevo Estadio León in León, Mexico – Proposed stadium with a capacity of 35,000. The price tag stands at $326 million;
  • Arena del Río in Barranquilla, Colombia – With a capacity of 50,000, it is under construction and the arena price tag stands at USD$450 mm;
  • Liga Deportiva Alajuelense in Turrúcares, Costa Rica. With a capacity of 24,000, the planned arena price tag stands at $30 million;
  • Estadio Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Chile – With a capacity of 10,000, the price tag stands at $20 million; and
  • Estadio Yucatán in Merida, Mexico – With a capacity of 23,000, it is scheduled to open in 2023 and the price tag stands at $100 million as Hunden puts in, “a pretty expensive venue”.


Innovative design and engineering concept for a new-look venue

Hunden made special mention of ES Yucatán – Sustainable Stadium of Yucatán – which is a convertible venue. He observed that there were a lot of convertible venues in the 1950s and 1960s in many countries including the United States.

As he noted, “We had baseball and football teams sharing the same facilities. But, if you can create a facility that actually acts like a purpose-built facility for both baseball and football and anything else, but primarily those two which have very different shapes, that is something to write home about. ES Yucatán is a really brilliant concept from a design perspective that we might start to see more of because frankly these venues are really expensive, they can be upwards of a billion dollars as you can see in the United States venues are being constructed expending hundreds of millions of dollars – up to a billion dollars and even up to 5 billion dollars. But a lot of communities in marketplaces are not just that big, they cannot afford to build a baseball stadium or a football stadium to the extent that they can have a convertible venue that’s multipurpose but doesn’t feel so generic. It’s a real challenge for architects and engineers to figure that out and they have done that in the case of ES Yucatán and we are all waiting to see the facility come to life and see how it does.”

Renovations – stadiums

  • Estadio Olimpico Atahualpa in Quito, Ecuador – Boasting a capacity of 50,000, the structure was refurbished expending $200 million which is “pretty much expensive”;
  • Gran Parque Central in Montevideo, Uruguay – With a capacity of 40,000, $22 million was spent in refurbishing the facility; and
  • Estadio El Campín in Bogotá, Colombia. With a capacity of 40,000, its renovation is to be decided (TBD).

However, Hunden mentioned that renovations are starting to happen apace and the renderings are self-explanatory.

Arenas – trends, statistics and new developments


Arenas in Latin America

Arenas are not as widely prevalent in Latin America due to the lack of popularity of professional indoor sports. However, the development of arenas is really trending primarily because of concerts entertainment there is more disposable income in these countries then there was in the past, at least for the most part.

Arenas are commonly used for concerts, conventions and other large indoor events.

Hunden observed that esports is also driving the development and use of arenas – “We also have esports starting to really take off throughout the world. It is very popular in Asia, and it’s really grown and we have purpose-built facilities in the United States and it’s starting to really push all around the world and in Latin America we are participating there as well. So, we have all these reasons. So, arenas are the in thing now.”

Arenas built by decade

  • The Pan American Games in 2007 and Rio 2016 (both of which took place in Brazil) were the main drivers for construction of new venues; and
  • Arena development in Latin America exploded in the past two decades. Growth stems from the internationalization of entertainment and sporting events.

They are not as old as the football stadiums but they have been exploiting in the last couple of decades and the real focus is the live entertainment and sporting events. Almost half of the arenas have been built in the last 20 years as Hunden stated, “So, that’s just a real change and that is all based on disposable income and it is helping with entertainment and sports”.

Brazil & Mexico lead from the front


Number of arenas with capacity over 15,000 per country


Brazil and Mexico are the two top countries for arenas with over 15,000 capacities:

  • Brazil – 8
  • Mexico – 5
  • Argentina – 3
  • Colombia – 2


New builds – stadiums

  • Arena Bogotá in Bogotá, Colombia. A decision is yet to be taken on this 24,000-capacity facility;
  • Antel Arena in Montevideo, Uruguay – The 15,000-capacity arena opened in 2018 and its price tag stands at $118 million;
  • Estádio do Pacaembu in Sao Paulo, Brazil – A small and spiffy esports stadium which is brand-new. As Hunden noted, “Esports is a whole new area that we have started to focus on in the last few years and it’s exploding but as a real estate use there is still a lot of speculations as to how it is going to perform. The jury is still out on that. The Estádio do Pacaembu in Sao Paulo is a multipurpose venue. There is a football pitch as well in the stadium and one can indulge in regular sports too but the main focus is on esports and it really appeals a lot.”; and
  • The Movistar Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina – The new Movistar Arena is set to become Argentina’s signature sports and entertainment venue. Located in the heart of Buenos Aires, it was established in 2019 and the 11,500-seat arena can hold up to 15,000 on a standing configuration. The arena host entertainment, family shows, festivals, and sports and music events for every type of fan.

Hunden noted that the entire concept of premium seating is very different in Latin America – “In Latin America, it is more popular if you are a VIP to actually want to be down in the regular seats in the front but not really regular because you are a VIP guest and you are in the front and you get to walk in front of everybody and have them see you in the front row as opposed to in Europe and North America where you often see the VIPs in suites and club seats hidden away from the rest of the public. In Latin America culture, it is very popular to want to be seen if you are a VIP. So, that’s one of the differences in venue design that we see in Latin America. Of course, both have these premium experiences, but since the VIP culture is different, it has some design differences as well.”

Influence of US major league sports exhibitions in Latin America


NFL exhibition games

  • The National Football League (NFL) has played a total of 11 exhibition games in Mexico, with plans to continue international expansion in the upcoming season;
  • Since 2005, the NFL has played 4 regular-season games in Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca;
  • Mexico has the largest NFL fan base outside of the US;
  • The league has been wanting to see a game played in Brazil and in other countries and major Cities like Buenos Aires; and
  • Beginning in 2022, the NFL plans to require four teams to play an international game rather than a home game.

So, the whole purpose of United States and North American major leagues likes the NFL and the NBA expanding of course is to rake in the moolah – getting into more markets, drawing more fans and also boast international teams based in Mexico City or Rio or London.

There is a kind of explosion of football from around the world sort of invading North America and some of the North American sports are invading the rest of the world.

NBA exhibition games

  • The National Basketball Association (NBA) has played a total of 30 exhibition games in Mexico, and 2 games in Brazil;
  • The NBA games in Mexico have taken place at the 22,300-capacity Mexico City Arena and the 17,599-capacity Arena Monterrey;
  • The NBA G League (NBA’s official minor league) expanded to Mexico City in 2019 with the partnership with Capitanes, Mexico City’s professional basketball team; and
  • The NBA Academy Latin America was established, an elite basketball training center in Mexico City.


Future implications and projects

  • Facility development to continue rapid growth, with an increased emphasis on flexibility and security;
  • Redevelopment of outdated stadiums to meet modern standards;
  • Higher federation/league standards for new and existing facilities;
  • Esports to become more of a mature, major player in arena development and the sporting world;
  • Consumers will continue to expect mixed-use environments around major venues. Financing realities will require it; and
  • Internationalization of sports/leagues, improved product value.

Hunden felt that taking into consideration the dangerous COVID-19 situation the world over, venues will have to boast some extra spaces to maintain strict social distancing keeping the safety and health quotients in mind – “It also gives you a chance for more revenue collection because you could be selling goods and services to these people while they are waiting to get checked. So, there is opportunity challenge and cost involved in all of those things.”

Stressing on mixed-use development, he said that an arena boasting added attractions makes for a better destination. Just boasting a facility in one’s town or community is not enough wherein people walk into stadiums and wait for the game to begin and then go home – “There has to be stuff to do before and after otherwise you are not really creating anything. Well, what we want is for people to live or play or visit these great entertainment districts that also have their anchor tenant. And, of course, the internationalization of sports and leagues will improve product value and keep the cash registers jingling for those leagues.”

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