Uruguay to restore Centenario regal bearing


Uruguay Montevideo Centenario redevelopment Image: Marcelo Campi

The legendary Estadio Centenario in Uruguay may be one of the world’s most famous football temples but it’s almost a century old. Uruguay is now looking at reinventing the legendary Centenario in time for its centenary.

The 65, 235-capacity Estadio Centenario is a stadium in the Parque Batlle neighborhood of Montevideo, Uruguay, used primarily for football. On July 18, 1983, it was declared by FIFA as the only historical monument of World Football, the only building of its kind worldwide.

The stadium was built between 1929 and 1930 to host the inaugural 1930 FIFA World Cup™, as well as to commemorate the centennial of Uruguay’s first Constitution. It is listed by FIFA as one of the football world’s classic stadiums. In 2030, the venue will be celebrating its centenary year.

Estadio Centenario is the primary home of the Uruguay national team. Uruguay has always been a threat when playing in their home stadium, consistently beating top teams.

Montevideo is gearing up to formulate Plan 2030, an initiative announced few weeks back. As part of Plan 2030, major upgrades will be made to the national stadium. After all, in the year of its centenary in 2030, Uruguay is hoping to stage the FIFA World Cup™, along with Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. It would be the ‘centenario’ for both the FIFA showpiece and the venue itself.

It is for the above reason that public operator Administrative Commission of the Official Field (CAFO) is working on implementing the requisite changes. The choice was between demolishing the stadium and redevelopment of what is already a 90-year-old venue. The entire football community, when asked, said they would not allow the historical arena to be torn down.

The CAFO comprises three members of the Uruguayan Football Association and two of the Municipality of Montevideo.

CAFO has selected two crucial partners to carry forward the work – multinational professional services network of firms PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Schelotto-Lecuna studio. By mid-2021, more details will be known regarding the technical and financial aspects of the project.

Though there is some time left, but the challenge ahead is indeed huge. After all, it is the question of repurposing a global football monument.

Though it is just an estimate, the price tag is expected to be within $200-300 million. It’s a massive amount and public funding may be needed.

Though the entire plan of rehabilitating the arena is at a fledgling stage, however, interesting ideas are already floating. For example, the stadium will require greater access to parking spaces, now almost none are available. A private investor may be interested in injecting funds.

Also, the planned VIP boxes and all of the hospitality area, to be housed within the West stand, might be viable financially if private investors put in money. Plans are also there for a themed hotel, football museum, coworking spaces and regular commercial floor space.

The structural amendments planned to the venue will delight the fans. The distinctive auditorium will have to be reconfigured and stands will be revamped too in order to bring fans closer to the pitch and also provide unhindered view to the spectators who sit and watch the game.

After the spruce-up work, what will be the final capacity of the iconic stadium has not been decided as yet but including temporary seats for the 2030 FIFA spectacle is being considered.

“We start from the premise that the $200-300 million is not there. I do not think that the national Government will pick up the entire tab. We have to scout for other funding sources. We have to think from the angle of redecorating it as a multiuse venue and also examine the whole aspect of individuals being interested in investing in the stadium. And for investments to start flowing, we must be very creative and very professional,” stated CAFO Executive Director Ricardo Lombardo before mediapersons.

The stadium operators will have to work their fingers to the bone to attract foreign capital.

“Our objective is that in the first half of 2021 the business plan will have to be ready with detailed technical plans in place,” the Executive Director asserted.

Presently, CAFO is working on an architectural plan and business plan for the Centenario Stadium which they plan to convert into a multiuse arena. The authorities are keeping their fingers crossed on obtaining a nonrepayable loan from international organizations. The aim is to develop a plan that will act as a template in regards to the overall makeover of the stadium. The plan will cover architectural, financial, environmental, urban, sporting and cultural aspects.

The facility remodeling work would include upgrading the football museum, construction of VIP lounges in the América tribune, dividing the stands into different segments and doing away with the stalls and slopes.

“We will have to start work on revamping the stadium by assuming that we will not get any investor who is willing to pump in the entire 200 or 300 million which it is estimated will be required to transform the facility into a multifunctional arena. We will pull out all stops to attract big foreign investments for the venture as Estadio Centenario is the only historical monument of world football. If we can manage to get foreign investors, we would also like these investors to participate in the stadium blueprint so that they can also realize the fact that though the stadium will be reconfigured, its pristine sheen will remain intact. The historical angle of the stadium is something which Uruguayans in general, and the people of Montevideo in particular, pride upon,” Lombardo observed.

By rehabilitating the stadium, the CAFO wants to restore the regal bearing of Estadio Centenario which it used to enjoy during the 20th century.

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