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Uruguay Club Nacional de Football facilities around the stadium Image: Club Nacional de Football

The Club Nacional de Football is a Uruguayan football club based in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was founded on May 14th, 1899 in Montevideo, and is the oldest team in Uruguay and the first Creole club in America. The 34,000-capacity Estadio Gran Parque Central in Montevideo serves as their residence.

The 34,000-capacity Estadio Gran Parque Central, usually just Parque Central, is the stadium of Club Nacional de Football. It is located in Montevideo, Uruguay, near Nacional headquarters, in the La Blanqueada neighborhood. In this stadium, Nacional plays most of its home games.

Martin de Castro, General Manager, Club Nacional de Football, Montevideo, Uruguay, in a conversation with ‘Coliseum’, explains how the club is bringing about a 360 degree transformation to an iconic heritage building by making it a multiuse facility and it was no less a daunting task as they had to face challenges galore to meet their objective.

The repurposing work of the heritage structure is on and will get modified to a multiuse 365-days-use business building featuring gyms, swimming pools and club museum. The structure which is being rehabilitated opened way back in 1957.

Asserted Martin de Castro, “Once the iconic facility gets rehabilitated, it is going to help in generating more revenues and will also help to finance the necessary renovation work to be carried out on the Estadio Gran Parque Central. The offices which were housed in the heritage structure are now being transformed into multipurpose social and sports club. The façade of the building has been kept untouched to retain its pristine sheen.”

The work for repurposing the Estadio Gran Parque Central in central Montevideo started in May this year. The stadium lies a short walk away from the 60,235-capacity Estadio Centenario. Next to it will sit a sports center and if one walks across the street, he or she will be greeted by a tennis court.

de Castro added that the road to revamping the stadium has been a bumpy one with its own set of challenges. The reconfiguration work started in the year 2014 but “suddenly there was a change in the political dispensation of Uruguay. With the change of guard, came new rules. The architectural concept of the stadium underwent a change and we started facing the financial heat all of a sudden and were left with no funds to remodel the stadium. We had to do away with the VIP boxes plans too.”

Today, he informed that any surplus amount generated by the club is directed towards building the VIP boxes and several other tasks which remained incomplete way back then with the change of the political establishment. But, a lot of tasks still remain “incomplete”.

The stadium per se is a business unit that is operating at a loss. The long shadow of COVID-19 has made things worse as is the case with other stadia around the world. Presently, five top-flights’ games are held in a month in the venue and de Castro stated that the main objective is to ensure that the venue brings in more and more of the moolah and “we would like to transform the stadium into a business unit that is profitable and that can provide profit on a day to day basis and not just on an event basis. And the answer to keep the cash registers jingling is to modify the facility into a mixed-use one”.

The stadium at one point of time used to boast spaces for basketball, volleyball, tennis, but maintaining these spaces proved to be a very costly affair for the club.

The heritage building also soon turned into a non-productive unit as the Club Nacional de Football went through a roller-coaster ride as de Castro continued, “We had a lot of overhead expenses leading to huge losses for the club.”

The biggest challenge he said now is to lure the families to visit the arena. Usually, these families want to watch the games from their living room couches. But, a mixed-use facility would kind of give “food for thought to these very families to visit the venue as they will be able to indulge in numerous activities and not just wait for the game to start and once it ends, head back home. The venue with its bells and whistles will also attract fans by the horde”.

The location of the stadium has its own advantages as it is located centrally in an area that is very densely populated and the area does not boast any other sports facility within three kilometers radius. Once the stadium starts enjoying swimming pools and gymnasiums, which would help generate additional revenue and keep the financial wheels of the club well-oiled and finishing touches can be lent to “the half-finished projects initiated in and around the arena”.
 

Opportunities:

  • Iconic heritage building in a central location;
  • Populated area;
  • No social club in a radius of 3 sq kms;
  • Project to transform the building into a new 365-days-use-business building featuring gyms, swimming pools and club museum;
  • Revenues to finance the final stage of stadium renovation; and
  • Possibility to utilize space around the stadium.

 

Picking up the tab

The whole development has been financed through private party which demands that for the next seven years the investment keeps flowing. Two infrastructure projects are being planned.

In March 2021, Club Nacional de Football already had 2,000 affiliates and is expecting 2,500 by the end of this year. In March 2022, another building is going to get inaugurated which is adjacent to the central structure and roofed pools and two gymnasiums will be inaugurated in the upper floor. The club hopes that added attractions will help them enjoy 6,000 affiliates. There is enough space under the bleachers in the adjacent areas to keep on expanding the infrastructure and “we hope to become the largest social sports club in the country one day”.

de Castro wrapped up by stating, “I am very optimistic that the stadium repurposing project will spell huge success for us as the club enjoys very good relationship with the community on which the stadium sits and keeps the neighborhood as well as its fans engaged. For Club Nacional de Football is more than just football, it is a way of life in Uruguay, the heart and soul of the soccer-crazy people.”

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