By the end of this week work should be complete on upgrades of the national stadium in Istanbul. Turkey's largest football venue just got slightly smaller but the biggest issue remains distance from the field.
Launched in autumn of 2019, renovation works at Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadyumu are coming to an end. Turkey's largest stadium got slightly smaller once more. Initially, when opened in 2002, it was able to hold 80,000 people, then went down to 75,000 in 2005, when it hosted its first Champions League final. Now that the second UEFA fixture is coming, number of seats is at 72,000.
The reason for such change is quite predictable: increased number of premium and press seats means less room for regular seating. In total newly created and renovated hospitality suites will accommodate 1,400 people, while the VIP area will double in size to reach 1,000.
The field of play – no with a hybrid surface – was created completely from scratch but perhaps the most visible change is the lack of running track, which remained unused anyway. Instead of the track asphalt was laid, only covered with synthetic grass in front of the west stand.
The one remaining issue is distance between fans and the field, which results in poor sightlines particularly in the lower ring of seating. Along the sides fans are 30+ meters away from the line, behind goals it's 40+ meters.
A lot has changed inside the main grandstand. Brand new changing rooms for players and media facilities were created but, in fairness, all of the grandstand saw improvements. Floodlights and internal lighting was also replaced, as well as public address system and electric installations, now fully compliant with UEFA requirements.
This year's Champions League final will take place in Istanbul on May 30 but the stadium will be tested earlier that month. On May 5 the Turkish Cup final is scheduled. Fans will be able to use a new metro station leading to the previously remote western Istanbul venue.
This year's changes are only expected as temporary state, aimed at accommodating the UEFA event. Eventually the stadium is expected to follow the concept drawn by AFL Architects as part of Turkey's Euro 2024 bid. A football-specific stadium would be built on the site, holding as many as 92,000 fans and becoming an actual national stadium (at present the national team doesn't use Atatürk, instead rotating between other stadia nationwide).