By Manuel Veth –
Saint Petersburg’s World Cup stadium once again made headlines in Russia’s sport media, when Sport-Express reported on Friday that cracks were found on the facade of the nearly completed Zenit Arena.
The stadium, which is constructed on Krestovsky Island just a few kilometres west of the old Petrovsky Stadium, has made headlines in the past for the long delays in its completion—the deadline was pushed back from the original March 2009 date, to the end of 2011, then 2013, followed by 2015, and it now appears that the stadium will not be completed until December 2016. Futbolgrad visited the facility in November 2015, and was then told that the stadium would be opened in June 2016. Now the stadium organizers don’t want to speculate publically on the possibility that either repair work may have to be carried out after the stadium is officially opened, or that the stadium opening could be postponed once again.
Zenit Arena – The Most Expensive Stadium in the World
The numerous delays in the construction process have already meant that the stadium, which to date has cost €1 billion, will be the most expensive football facility in the world. Futbolgrad has previously dubbed the stadium the Billion Euro Debacle. Currently, England’s Wembley Stadium holds the dubious record as the most expensive completed sports arena in the world. Wembley cost £757 million, and, much like Zenit’s new home, the construction of Wembley was hit by several delays that led to significant increases in cost.
The appearance of cracks in the exterior surface area of the stadium will certainly add to the cost, but the organizers have stated that the damage is mostly cosmetic and will not delay the completion of the facility, or pose a safety hazard.
Also, it must be noted that, for Zenit fans, the arena may be worth the wait, as the 68,000 seat stadium will most certainly be an architectural marvel. Futbolgrad was able to inspect both the interior and the surrounding area of the stadium. What was immediately apparent was the steep incline of the stands inside, which are similar in design to Munich’s Allianz Arena.
This design means that, no matter where they are seated in the stadium, fans will have an excellent view of the pitch. Furthermore, the steep terraces will guarantee that the atmosphere will be excellent even if the stadium is not filled to capacity. This feature will be important as Zenit will not always be able to fill the 68,000 capacity stadium for Russian Football Premier League matches.
Its location on Krestovsky Island also means that fans will enjoy a stunning view of the Baltic Sea when they are entering or leaving the facility. The city, also, has built a new highway that will better connect the facility with the city center and the surrounding area. Perhaps the only question that remains is whether the sole metro stop on Krestovsky Island will be sufficient to transport up to 68,000 fans to and away from the stadium.
Regardless, one thing is certain—the stadium will be a marvel and will provide Zenit with a facility that befits the club that represents the city of the tsars.
Photos of the Zenit Arena Construction Site
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and PhD candidate at King’s College London. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. His thesis is entitled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, and will be defended in November. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.