Yesterday saw the very first game at Arena das Dunas. There's still work to be done ahead of the 2014 World Cup, but launching into operation went very well. Apart from attendance, because the stadium was half empty.
It's the optimist/pessimist issue for Natal as a total of 19,244 people came yesterday for two games and concert. This means the new Arena das Dunas was only half full throughout Sunday's festivities. And no wonder – both local teams are known to be far less popular than Brazil's most successful sides and the selection of Natal for the 2014 World Cup was sometimes criticised to begin with.
Nevertheless, opening event seems to have gone well, apart from controversies surrounding ongoing protests against excessive public spending. Many people didn't want to get inside yesterday, displaying messages discouraging people from coming to Brazil for the FIFA event. That doesn't seem likely to succeed as FIFA informed recently that a record number of 10 million ticket orders was registered.
The stadium itself is a well thought-through one. First renderings of this stadium were presented in 2010. Back then Populous architects were on the job, but detailed project was carried out by Brazilian teams. The stadium with light, furrowed outer shell has a distinctive feature with staircases being exposed rather than hidden beneath the stands.
The interior sees two tiers of seating along the pitch, divided by 40 skyboxes, and a single tier without roof on both ends. Interestingly, the ends have additional space for temporary expansion, one that gave the stadium some 10,000 additional seats for the 2014 World Cup. Under the stands a large event hall for up to 4,000 people is located.
Along with over 2,600 parking spaces the stadium cost regional authorities R$ 423 million (€130m / $176m) and was expected to be delivered by December 31, 2013. Eventually it saw a slight delay, but was operable and opened already in January 2014.