Spain: Stadium project for Betis under threat?

source: ABC, Diario de Sevilla,; author: Miguel Ciołczyk Garcia

Spain: Stadium project for Betis under threat? A spectacular plan fit for the 21st century - that is how the planned redevelopment of the Benito Villamarin can be called. The project is expected not only to complete the previous modernisation, but also to elevate the stadium to the forefront of European venues. However, some politicians and locals are pointing out serious flaws and shortcomings.


"The 'little brother” of Camp Nou and the Bernabeu?

Real Betis Balompié has nestled into the top tier of Spanish teams, finishing the last three seasons in positions that give them the right to play in European cups. While it has not yet reached the highest level on the Old Continent in sporting terms, the project of the new Benito Villamarín seems to guarantee promotion to the top division of European stadiums. Provided, of course, it is realised.

The project, which was unveiled last August, is a collaboration between Spanish studio Rafael de la-Hoz and American firm Gensler. It envisages the construction of a new main stand and the full roofing of all sectors, but also the re-design of the façade, the erection of a new building next to the stadium and the construction of an underground car park. It is also to be completely green.

In its new view, however, Estadio Benito Villamarín will not only be a sports venue, but is expected to generate revenue all year round. This will be made possible by an events centre, shops, restaurants and a viewing terrace, possibly even a hotel. Betis is thus aiming to join the exclusive ranks of venues such as the new Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and Camp Nou, both of which have implemented the model of a modern multi-purpose stadium open 7/365 on the Iberian peninsula, which is popular in the USA among others.

Design of Estadio Benito Villamarín© Rafael de la-HozGensler

Stadium renovation - yes, building - no

On March 11 Betis launched a consultation on the new project, which ended with an unequivocal message from residents. 8 neighbourhood groups opposed the construction of the 47-metre-high building, which they describe as an attempt to speculate. According to them, the construction  in no way signifies an urban improvement, but a deterioration of the environment and landscape in the neighbourhood.

Resisting linking the finalisation of the 2016-17 redevelopment to the creation of a commercial building, the groupings pointed out that the information provided by the club overestimates the supposedly positive impact of the project on the surrounding area, which is expected to be made worse by an outdated urban planning model. They are also concerned about traffic congestion, noise and excess lighting, which the shopping centre in the new building in particular is expected to cause.

Design of Estadio Benito Villamarín© Rafael de la-HozGensler

"Legal limbo" and "irresponsibility"

Opponents of the project were supported by the left-wing Podemos party. According to it, the Betis project is also to have no reports, mandatory for this type of construction, describing the projected impact of the investment on health, urban traffic or the environment. The politicians believe that the new Benito Villamarín is, for this reason, a legal limbo which, if allowed to go ahead, would be irresponsible on the part of the municipal authorities.

They also oppose the current building project, which is to be built right next to the stadium, but on a plot of land owned by the city. According to Podemos representatives in Seville, giving this land to the club is unjustified. They propose instead that the city retain rights to 50% of the plot and set a fixed fee for its use.

Design of Estadio Benito Villamarín© Rafael de la-HozGensler

The club defends itself against the accusations

Betis representatives in the consultation, however, assured that there would be no shopping centre in the building. The uses have not yet been determined, but it will probably be hotel uses, offices, health facilities, gyms or something similar, not a shopping centre, - assured Betis' general director, Federico Martínez Feria.

In turn, they responded to the politicians' accusations that the stadium would be environmentally neutral thanks to the involvement of the internationally recognised Forever Green platform in the project. These explanations do not seem to be enough for the project's opponents, so it can be assumed that work will not start as scheduled in 2024 and the dispute will be settled in court.