The Camp Nou in Barcelona turns 64 with little to celebrate and in an alarming state

The Camp Nou in Barcelona turns 64 with little to celebrate and in an alarming state

BARCELONA – The Camp Nou, Barcelona’s stadium, celebrates, that is to say, this Friday 64 years since its inauguration, on September 24, 1957, and in a state of alert, pending a deep remodeling as the most outstanding work of the project ‘ Espai Barça ‘but in need of “urgent” adaptation works, sources from the club revealed to ESPN, recalling that already during the summer 2.2 million dollars had to be invested in order to comply with the minimum security conditions to be able to reopen it to fans after the coronavirus pandemic.

Moreover, away from all greatness and waiting for the vaunted ‘Espai Barça’ to become a reality, an initial work budgeted at 30 million dollars must be done to maintain the safety of the fans after a decade of improper neglect in inside the stadium. While Real Madrid already enjoys a spectacular Santiago Bernabéu and modern, welcoming and comfortable sports buildings are multiplying in Europe, Barcelona fans contemplate with a mixture of anger and resignation the loss of momentum of a Camp Nou in a semi-ruined state.

Barça not only suffers from an obvious economic crisis, a very serious one in response to the debt exceeding 1,600 million dollars and against which the new board of Joan Laporta fights with determination, which in May signed an urgent loan with Goldman Sachs worth 587 million , of which he has already used about 100 to meet the most urgent salary payments.

Nor can the sporting crisis that has a Ronald Koeman in the spotlight, whose dismissal is suspected sooner rather than later, with a weakened squad after the departure of Lionel Messi and who threatens to separate the Barça team from the European aristocracy … Among all the conflicts and problems that the club faces, the need arises to adapt as soon as possible a Camp Nou to which a work calculated by the board of 30 million dollars must be injected and that, for the moment It has nothing to do with the pharaonic ‘Espai Barça’ that the board hopes to make a reality in the next five years … If everything is developed under the established parameters.

Presented as one of the most modern sports venues at the time, with a capacity for 90 thousand spectators (after discarding a first sketch that estimated its capacity at 150 thousand fans), the Camp Nou was the product of several reforms and improvements in its first 40 years of existence … to be, in the last decade, lagging far behind other large stadiums in terms of modernity and, most importantly, losing both comfort and safety for its fans.

On the occasion of the 1982 World Cup, the largest work was carried out, the construction of a third grandstand that expanded its seats to 115 thousand capacity, and twelve years later, in the summer of 1994 and with dizzying speed, it was lowered the level of the pitch by almost 3 meters, expanding the first stands, converting the seats standing behind the goals into seats and disappearing the pit that surrounded the pitch, a sign of historical identity of a Camp Nou that in 1999 enjoyed its last great performance, with the total disappearance of the stands in the third tier, with seats throughout the stadium and a final capacity for 99,354 spectators.

Since then … Nothing. Or almost nothing. During Joan Laporta’s first stage in the presidency, the club carried out small adaptation works in the interior of the stadium, the boxes were modernized and problems arising from the age of the initial work were solved, which revealed the need for a more intervention forceful that motivated that in 2007 the project of Norman Foster was approved as remodeling and definitive modernization of the stadium.

It was never carried out and after 14 years the Camp Nou is a building as old as it is obsolete, if not dangerous. Beyond the colorful images of the rostrum and its façade, the interior of the Barça temple shows a sadness and neglect that is inappropriate for the club, which in the last decade, and despite the existing reports advising (or even demanding) minor works to improve the security nothing has been done.

Laporta publicly denounced in mid-August that Bartomeu’s new Camp Nou project “is obsolete and the reality has been hidden from the partners. It is based on a series of falsehoods and a lack of transparency, so we are redoing the project so that is economically viable. “

In April 2014 and through a referendum organized by the directive of Josep Maria Bartomeu (already projected under the mandate of Sandro Rosell), the Barcelona partners approved the complete redevelopment of the Camp Nou and its surroundings, with its highlight being the reform depth of the stadium and the construction of a new sports hall in the area where the Miniestadi was located, the cost of which was initially estimated at 704 million dollars.

In this way, the first total renovation project of the Camp Nou presented by Norman Foster in 2007, under the presidency of Joan Laporta and budgeted at 290 million euros, was definitely buried. Already in 2010 Sandro Rosell, upon reaching the presidency, described that reform as “unnecessary and not at all urgent”, assuring that the stadium “only needs retouching and not a pharaonic work” … A statement that began to be dismissed as after three years, when he began to study a new and much more ambitious work.

The delay in the request by the club, and approval of permits from the Barcelona city council caused the project, which was to start in 2017 and be finished in 2021, to be delayed and its budget to increase. With the disappointment of the neighborhood associations and the increasing legal inconveniences, the summer of 2019 was first established and then delayed until 2020, with President Bartomeu announcing at that time that the price of the works had already increased to 900 million. of dollars, which already reached 960 in the last report presented by Bartomeu’s board, immediately before his resignation in October 2020 and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

The grandiloquence with which the entire project had been presented six and a half years earlier had given way to a bath of reality and obvious concern. Even more so when it was discovered that the club had already used almost 130 million of the loan signed with Goldman Sachs to “cover the initial works” and that including the demolition of the Miniestadi (never explained logically and whose cost was 33 million dollars), the construction of the Johan Cruyff stadium (initially budgeted at 14 million and whose final cost was over 23) or the work on the ‘new electrical wiring’ of the Camp Nou exposed the manifest impossibility, due to the monumental losses of the club, 560 million dollars, and the mammoth dragged-in debt of over 1.6 billion, to carry out any kind of great work at the stadium.

Today Barcelona celebrates 64 years of the Camp Nou, a monumental work at the time that caused a serious financial crisis, since the initial budget of half a million dollars was spent at a total cost of more than 2.3 million and that they had to be paid for in part with various issues of mortgage obligations and cash bonds, which made it possible to finance the construction of the Stadium at the cost of borrowing the club for more than a few years.

A situation that in 2021 returns to the fore … With the aggravating circumstance that Barça’s current debt is already mammoth.

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