Project Espai Barça to get up steam



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Camp Nou stadium update October 2021 Image: FC Barcelona

The project to remodel Camp Nou – home of top-flight FC Barcelona (Spain) – build a new Palay Blaugrana and Campus Barça – will be revisited to make it viable and sustainable financially and to turn it into the biggest and most state-of-the-art sports and entertainment space within a European City.

The ‘FC Barcelona’ stated that the members and members’ representatives invited to the Ordinary General Assembly on October 17th, which was suspended and postponed until October 23rd, have to take a final decision on whether to give the green light to the Espai Barça financial plan, a project described by FC Barcelona Vice-President Elena Fort in her presentation at the Palau Blaugrana as “the most important project for the present and the future of the club”.

Futbol Club Barcelona, commonly referred to as Barcelona and colloquially known as Barça, is a Spanish professional football club based in Barcelona (Spain), which competes in LaLiga, the top flight of Spanish football.

The 99,354-capacity Camp Nou is a football stadium in Barcelona, Spain. It opened in 1957 and has been the home stadium of FC Barcelona since its completion.

The Espai Barça development plan goes well beyond modernization and reconstruction of FC Barcelona’s home venue Camp Nou. In addition to increasing the capacity of the current stadium to 105,000 from circa 99,000 and completely revamping the current structure of Camp Nou, the Espai Barça project entails building a new Palau Blaugrana with a capacity of 15,000, an additional court with a capacity of 2,000, an ice rink, a new social area, a new commercial area, revamped club offices, La Masía (read FC Barcelona’s youth academy), and an additional 5,000 parking spots. This ambitious initiative has been in work for several years and is scheduled to be ready for the 2024-2025 seasons. In April 2014, Espai Barça was approved by the club’s members with a budget of $700 million.

The need of the hour is to give a futuristic touch to the club’s sporting facilities. But, the plan to restructure the Barça home has been hanging fire for more than 15 years and the time has come to take the bull by the horns.

The ‘FC Barcelona’ further stated that most of Barça’s biggest competitors in Europe already boast avant-garde home facilities or facilities which are under construction. The whole redevelopment plan holds great significance for the club because it is a question of the club’s reputation and not boasting a spiffy home will reflect very poorly on the image of the club and their European rivals has an edge in this regard.

Espai Barça is a project over which there has been lot of foot-dragging. A decision was arrived at in the year 2014 to remodel Camp Nou, build a new Palau Blaugrana, a new MiniEstadi (the current 6,000-capacity Estadi Johan Cruyff, a football stadium operated by FC Barcelona) and a Campus Barça to integrate the Blaugrana facilities into the Les Corts neighborhood and the City of Barcelona.

Seven years down the line, the top-flight has invested 145 million euros and only carried out five percent of the redecoration work, which has become passé speaking strictly in financial terms (the budget of 600 million euros is completely undervalued!), in the social aspect (more than 12,500 members with season tickets were affected by a change from the first tier to the third tier) and as far as the schedule is concerned (the project should have been completed in 2021).

Over the years, the Espai Barça project plans have become outdated because it does not take into account the latest technology and has completely overlooked the sustainability quotient which is a hot-button topic these days due to intense global warming effects all over the world.

To attune the remodeling project with the present-day needs, the Board of Directors have decided to revisit the development so that it sits well with the spiffy venues of today enjoying cutting-edge technology and premium facilities. The Barça new home will have to fall in the category of the crème de la crème.
 

A cut above the rest

The new Espai Barça plan is a totally futuristic concept – (Camp Nou, Palau Blaugrana) and Campus Barça (esplanade and annex buildings) – bringing about a 360 degree change to the club’s venue repurposing plans which would make it a class apart and is sure to sweep fans off their feet.

  • Realistic budget;
  • Relook at the decision to move 12,500 season ticket holders from the first tier to the third;
  • Streamlining the security, accessibility and comfort quotient at Camp Nou and the Palau Blaugrana;
  • Building Campus Barça which will stand out for its sustainability efforts and energy efficiency initiatives;
  • Making it the most technologically advanced venue;
  • More verdant spaces; and
  • More VIP areas to boost revenue generation.

 

Camp Nou changes

The new Espai Barça project will retain its open, Mediterranean character with wide terraces that are typical of the Nikken Sekkei construction project, the Japanese studio that came out as winner in the international design competition held to redecorate Camp Nou. However, the project will make marked changes to ensure that the financial wheels stay well-oiled and will provide exemplary facilities to the season ticket holders.

The project will be reviewed to keep it in tune with the latest technology, zero carbon emission goals and the ingress and egress for fans will be smooth and streamlined. The price tag will definitely go up if the venue has to measure up to the desired level of millennials.

  • As part of the reformulated plan, the first tier will not be modified. So, it saves all the headaches for the members;
  • A new third tier has been proposed which will allow better accessibility, greater comfort and members will enjoy more elbow room. The VIP areas will all come within one space rather than getting scattered all over the venue thus pushing up the comfort quotient for premium members;
  • Though the entire project will be revisited, the capacity of 105,000 remains and there will be room for members who otherwise find their names in the waiting list. Members can sit back and relax in wider seats and a covered roof;
  • There will be a double VIP ring between the second and third tiers. The VIP ring in the first tier will be placed higher up between the second and third tiers via an independent double ring that will increase considerably the capacity of the VIP boxes and will lead to greater generation of revenues to help finance the project;
  • Sustainability will be in the stadium’s DNA. The new Camp Nou project will have to be a trailblazer when it comes to issues of sustainability. The revised plan will see fans being encouraged to ditch cars and motorcycles for bicycles. More parking spaces will come up;
  • Camp Nou will boast a new roof where more sustainable elements will be used such as a geothermal system, ‘District Heating and Cooling’ and the roof will come armed with 30,000m2 of solar panels to generate photovoltaic energy;
  • Camp Nou will be a hi-tech arena. A 360 degree screen will be set up in the interior of the ‘bowl’ which will offer the fans an out-of-the-world experience, the security system and vehicle access will be improvised and providing 5G facilities is being mulled on; and
  • Project time frame to be fixed. If members approve the financing part at the Assembly, in the beginning of 2022 the project should get the nod and work could start in the summer of the same year with the aim to finish work by the end of 2025.

 

Multifunctional Palau Blaugrana

The new Palau Blaugrana would retain a major part of its original external design with the objective to raise capacity from 10,000 to 15,000 seats and make it one of the sleekest venues. The focus would be to make it a venue which can play host to both sporting as well as cultural events so that the cash registers jingle. The new project plan would retain the Petit Palau and the Ice Rink as well as the parking area for coaches.
 

Destination Campus Barça

The new project retains the plan to integrate Campus Barça into the neighborhood enjoying an open space without barriers which will be a new point of attraction for the City residents, incorporating a new concept of making the most of the space to create a park with the best of sporting and entertainment facilities. The members and visitors will be able to savor an enchanting experience at Campus Barça which will enjoy an astonishing amount of green space for children, visitors and neighbors alike to enjoy.

The main change to the plan is that the ‘diamonds’ will be done away with and more emphasis will be laid on the green areas in the square, and the incorporation of a welcome ‘Hub’ within the main stand of the arena. Inside the ‘Hub’, a Barça Store will come up with 2,500m2 of commercial floor space and the museum which will enjoy some 3,000m2 of floor space and will leave visitors wanting for more. A high point will be the ‘Barça Hall of Fame’.
 

Picking up the tab

The FC Barcelona CEO Ferran Reverter informed that the new Espai Barça project money will come from the additional revenue to be generated from the new boxes and VIP seats, new operating spaces, new sponsors, and the exploitation of new assets generated by Espai Barça itself.

Once the Espai Barça project comes to fruition, revenues will be generated which is estimated to be 200 million euros a year. Therefore, the members do not have to lighten their wallets for the project. The whole financing structure will depend on additional revenue.
 

Financing model

The club will ask approval for the financing model from the Assembly to be held on October 23rd and if greenlighted, the same will be negotiated through international operators who have vast experience in the financing of sports stadiums and facilities involving an estimated investment of up to 1.5 billion euros, will have a market interest rate and a return at 35 years, with a five-year grace period, while the stadium is being renovated. This 1.5 billion will be distributed as 900 million for the future Camp Nou, 420 million for the new Palau Blaugrana, 100 million for the development of Barça Campus, 60 million for investments agreed to in the MPGM (Modification of the General Metropolitan Plan), and 20 million for possible improvements to the Estadi Johan Cruyff.

Concluded Reverter, “This project is not only necessary, but is essential to keep alive the competition in sports in the future. The 1,500 million euros needed for investment to make the Espai Barça a reality is a figure in line with the realities of the market and will be an investment for the future from which FC Barcelona will reap rewards in the future.”

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