It’s perhaps fitting that in the week building up to The classic, Barcelona have unveiled their plans to renovate their famous old Camp Nou stadium in a bid to keep pace with Europe’s top clubs, such as LaLiga rivals Real Madrid.
The whites are in the process of refurbishing the Santiago Bernabeu, which reopened to fans last month for the 5-2 win over Celta Vigo, 559 days after it had last hosted a match.
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Construction work continues at Real’s iconic home, with the long-term goal to have an 80,000-capacity multi-purpose super-arena fit for the 21st century complete with various shops, food outlets and an extended club museum.
Not wishing to be left behind, Barca have now published plans for their revised project to completely overhaul their crumbling concrete bowl. The extent to which the Camp Nou has decayed was revealed recently in a report which detailed how pigeon nests covered in excrement created bad smells and led to swarms of flies and mites gathering inside the ground, while there was also evidence of bird droppings falling into areas where food was prepared for supporters.
Barcelona plan to invest €1.5 billion (£1.6bn) to transform the ground into a 105,000-seater stadium that is “at the avant garde of technology.” The project is certainly ambitious, not least because the club intends to push ahead with it despite being around €1.5bn in debt.
The Catalans even make direct reference to the Bernabeu as part of their launch video along with several other new and remodelled stadia such as Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano.
The Camp Nou first opened in 1957, and it remains Europe’s largest stadium with a capacity of 99,354. But, at the age of 64, it is beginning to look a little tired.
The grand plans to renovate the ground — named “Espai Barca” (“Barca Space”) — were first approved by Barca members back in 2014 but due to myriad issues the club have only been able to carry out a tiny fraction of the proposed work.
However, the project has now been revisited and revised, with the Catalans set to turn their creaking 64-year-old stadium into a club campus that they hope will be an “18-acre jewel” in the heart of the city. Club president Joan Laporta will put the revised plan to a general assembly for approval. If that happens, all of the club’s members will vote in a referendum to gives the redevelopment the green light.
The new Camp Nou will boast a retractable roof covered in 30,000 square metres of solar panels. This energy will be used to power the new 360-degree screen that will run around the entire interior of the stadium, as well as various security systems. In another effort to improve the ground’s sustainability, rain water will also be collected and recycled.
Outside, the concourse will feature a raft of new office complexes and green spaces, as well as an on-site hotel and the “Palau Blaugrana” — a smaller pavilion arena between the Camp Nou and the Johan Cruyff stadium (where Barca B play) that will house event spaces and an ice rink.
La Masia, the club’s venerated youth academy that produced greats such as Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, will also be preserved as part of the campus.
Barca are hoping that their enormous new complex will integrate into the surrounding neighbourhood of Les Corts, with no barriers between the two thus allowing fans to move freely through the whole area.
Parks and sporting facilities will be built in open spaces around the stadium to allow visitors to enjoy entertainment and activities.
A “welcome hub” will also be built inside the entrance foyer of the Main Stand which will house a gigantic new Barca club store and a vast museum stocked full of all the trophies and memorabilia collected by the club over the years.
The new Camp Nou certainly looks fantastic in virtual form — a modern, sleek stadium befitting a club who are intent on being the very best in the world.
Barca are hoping that, pending approval of the financing deal, renovation work can begin as early as summer 2022 and be completed by the end of 2025 should everything go to plan. Eager fans will simply have to make do with the images until then.