The planning process for new stadiums in Italy is one of the most time-consuming in Europe. It's no different in Verona, where so far there has been no progress in the work on the new facility.
Inconsistent financing plan
Not much has happened since the first visualisations of Nuova Arena di Verona in 2019. A glimmer of hope came in Verona in February this year, making fans believe that a new stadium is coming along. At that time, the initial cost estimate was disclosed, as well as the designer (Populous) and decision-makers who were to determine financial side of the investment.
These people were Andrea Abodi (president of Istituto per il Credito Sportivo), Cesar Octavio Esparza Portillo (Mexican entrepreneur) and Thomas Berthold (former Hellas player). The first one undertook to finance the project and became the guarantor. Esparza's task was to find foreign investors. Nothing has come of it yet. Moreover, Populous has not presented a detailed design so far.
Council member to cut project's life short
Just yesterday city council member Michele Bertucco announced he's filing a notion to revoke the project's declaration of public utility. Along his plan, this would happen during a special session in September.
Bertucco claims that the city officials were patient and goodwilling enough, while the project's initiators failed to deliver any solid financial structure or even a detailed concept of the proposed new stadium.
Regardless of whether the notion goes through and declaration (crucial for the project to move forward) is revoked, this shows the level of anxiety and distrust with this proposed stadium.
Neighbours also wary of the project
The opposition of residents affected by planned construction works, as well as its impact on traffic, speaks against the creation of the new ground. A positive message comes from Federico Sboarina - the mayor of Verona, who is a supporter of the project, although this may change after next year's local elections.
Another issue is that only Hellas is interested in building the stadium. Chievo has announced that it will not take part in the project (the club was recently excluded from Serie B). The new arena is also not helped by the investigation against Maurizio Setti, the president of Hellas, who has been accused of financial embezzlement.
Moreover, in March 2021, Hellas and Chievo owed the municipality an outstanding rent for the use of Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi of € 2 million and € 2.7 million, respectively. In the case of Hellas, the debt repayment has been divided into installments, while the judicial process for the collection has started against Chievo.
What will be done in Verona for now
Bentegodi is in poor condition and requires considerable investment outlays. For now, the focus has been on ad hoc work. Before the start of the new Serie A season, toilets and placement of safety signs will be improved for a total of € 30,000. In March, other conservation works were subsidised with the amount of € 20,000.
These works are the result of an inspection carried out by the city administration and external bodies. It was decided what should be done to make the venue operational until at least 2031. The stadium management will have to prepare an annual maintenance plan and a detailed seismic sensitivity study of the arena structure.
However, it is a drop in the ocean of the needs of a well-worn ground in Verona. If the stadium is to continue to be used, the security facilities should be improved in the event of evacuation. The infrastructure used for television broadcasts also requires investments. Expanding the number of business seats that generate more income should be one of the long-term priorities.
Author: Tomasz Sobura