Fans calling foul over plan to replace Milan’s soccer stadium

San Siro has been a Milanese landmark since 1926. Fans want to keep it that way.

Rendering of the new San Siro Stadium (Populous, iStock)
Rendering of the new San Siro Stadium (Populous, iStock)

Milan’s Giuseppe Meazza Stadium, a mecca for Milanese soccer fans since 1926, has fallen into such disrepair that the two teams that share it want to build a replacement. Fans aren’t happy.

Rumors have been circulating for months that Inter Milan and A.C. Milan — the two teams based at the stadium known as San Siro — want to abandon or demolish it, the New York Times reported. Those fears came true in December, when the clubs selected a proposal by American architecture firm Populous for a 60,000-spectator stadium with a glass envelope and a series of steel legs, to be dubbed the Cathedral.

Milan Mayor Beppe Sala, who generally supports the project, told the teams that San Siro will remain at least until 2026, when it’s slated to host the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. Groups have cropped up to oppose the demolition on environmental and cultural preservationist grounds.

Many of the factors behind the new stadium are larger than Milan. As soccer has evolved, the economics of the sport have changed. An influx of cash across European soccer leagues from billionaire team owners have left Serie A, once the world’s premier league, riddled with debt.

Between 2010 and 2020, European clubs spent more than $20 billion to build 153 new stadiums, 99 percent of that spent outside Italy. Team executives argue that a new stadium would help them raise enough revenue to compete across the continent.

“In terms of revenues, we have, both Milan and Inter, revenues of around 35 to 40 million euros a year” — roughly $37 million to $42 million — “from the stadium, while our competitors are about €100 million,” Paolo Scaroni, chairman of A.C. Milan, told the Times.

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The teams say that logistical issues and delays would make a renovation unfeasible. Instead, they plan to build the new stadium nearby and convert San Siro into public open space, potentially with some preserved pieces of the old stadium.

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While many local groups oppose the change, not everyone does.

“Italy is like an open-air museum: We have a lot of heritage,” said Massimo Roj, a Milanese architect and supporter of Inter Milan, in an interview with the Times. “San Siro is an old building. Your memory now is there, but, in 10 years time, we’ll be in another stadium, called San Siro again.”

The public will review the proposals this summer, a process with plenty of rabbit holes to bog down the push for a new stadium. But even if preservationists win out, a new stadium is all but assured, as the clubs have said they’re willing to just build a new stadium elsewhere in Milan.

[New York Times] – Joe Lovinger