When will Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium be completed?
Real Madrid began remodelling their stadium in 2019 after securing a €575M loan to fund the project and the New Bernabéu is taking shape.
With Liverpool in town for the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 -- chasing an unlikely comeback from 2-5 down -- and numerous other teams visiting Real Madrid’s famous home before the end of the season, questions are being asked about the state of the much publicised rebuild.
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu: a brief history
Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium has undergone countless makeovers since its inauguration in December 1947. It was first expanded in the mid-50s, increasing its capacity from 81,000 to 125,000. Further work to the stadium was needed, including a new façade, when Spain hosted the World Cup in 1982 and a few years later to upgrade safety in compliance with the European Convention on Spectator Violence and Misbehavior at Sports Events and in Particular Football Matches report following the Heysel disaster in 1985.
From the mid-90s onwards, refurbishment work and improvements have been almost constant. Its capacity was reduced in 1998 when terraces behind both goal areas were replaced with seating areas. The stadium became all-seater soon afterwards and in 2007, was awarded Elite status by UEFA.
2018: The New Bernabéu becomes a reality
Florentino Pérez’s plans to completely revamp the Santiago Bernabéu and transform it into an ultra-modern, state-of-the-art stadium were approved in the September 2018 General Assembly. Within months, the club had arranged a €575 million credit loan, repayable over 35 years with a maximum interest of 2.5% and annual payments of 29.3 million euros, from US banks, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.
The remodelling process began in June 2019 as soon as the season had ended. A license for construction and renovation works for the next three and a half years was granted, and at the time, work was expected to be finished and the new stadium fully functioning by late 2022 or early 2023.
The coronavirus pandemic hit Spanish clubs hard. This included Real Madrid but although revenue was down, on the plus side, at least it meant that work could advance faster than originally anticipated on the new stadium. The Esquina del Bernabéu shopping mall facing Calle Padre Damián, built in 1992, was one of the first parts of the ground to be completely demolished.
The first stage of the facelift included dismantling the stadium’s roof, building new towers on the west side of the ground and completely renovating the seating areas on the bottom two tiers. The new stadium will boast a new retractable roof and a pitch which can also be removed and reassembled which means the stadium can be used for other events such as concerts, conventions and even other sports, potentially including the occasionally touring NFL games. A subterranean greenhouse will ensure that the pitch can be preserved whenever it is retracted so that the stadium can be used for other purposes.
When competition resumed during the pandemic, Madrid’s first team had been using the Alfredo Di Stéfano stadium in Valdebebas to play their home games, only returning to a reduced capacity Bernabéu for the Week 4 LaLiga game against Celta in September 2021. FFC Construction, the firm who is conducting the remodelling job, have encountered a few unexpected setbacks while carrying out work but in spite of that, Madrid’s new stadium continues apace. By the start of the 2022/3 season, much of the new seating had been fitted to increase capacity from 60,000 to 81,000.
More headway was made during the break in domestic competition for the World Cup in Qatar at the end of 2022. During the 81 days when LaLiga was on hold, the club installed the huge video scoreboard and continued positioning the remainder of the 70,000 steel sheets that will form the stadium’s exterior.
When will the New Bernabéu be inaugurated?
It was believed that the club had originally hoped to inaugurate the New Bernabéu in December 2022, with Wednesday 14th proposed as the date of the official unveiling, to coincide with the stadium’s 75th birthday. It was on that day in 1947, that the stadium, then called Estadio de Chamartín, was opened with a friendly between Real Madrid and the Portuguese club Os Belenenses. However that always looked unlikely given what has happened in recent years and that it would have coincided with the World Cup, which finished on 18 December.
When Real Madrid finally inaugurate their new stadium, they want to make a big event of it and invite many of the game’s legendary figures to take part to celebrate a new chapter in the club’s history. As games continue to be played, and work goes on around the pitch, the date now being pushed is a completion of September or October 2023 and the glitzy unveiling in December. We can’t wait to experience it.
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