St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko asked Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to “co-finance” the construction of a new football stadium on Krestovsky Island to the tune of 10 billion roubles. In this way, the St Petersburg administration hopes to compensate for a 30% increase in the construction costs, which Novaya Gazeta covered on 9 February. Meanwhile, the construction budget has now been lowered from the initial 33 billion roubles (featuring in the cost estimates agreed with state appraisals department Glavgosexpertiza) to 28.75 billion roubles. According to the St Petersburg administration, it applied “decreasing coefficients” for the tender and contractor selection procedures.
“There are no other stadiums in the world located in similar climate zones and equipped with retractable roofs and movable floors,” Vyacheslav Semenenko, head of the St Petersburg Construction Committee, said on Thursday. He was addressing the members of a special committee of the city’s parliament Legislative Assembly, which was assigned to check the expediency of a 9.4 billion rouble hike in the construction costs.
He said the increase in the construction costs was due to rising inflation, as well as plans to use the facility not just for sports events but also for entertainment programmes (while the number of football spectators is limited to 68,000 people, concerts could bring in up to 84,000 spectators). There were also other factors, including a 40% increase in the planned size of the stadium, raising its capacity from 62,000 to 68,000 people. Furthermore, tougher security standards have been introduced, allowing for all spectators to be evacuated not within 15 minutes, as was previously the case, but in a matter of just 8 minutes.
Vyacheslav Chazov, head of the city’s Physical Education and Sport Committee, supported for costly project, paying particular attention to its movable floor: due to the configuration of the stands and the roof, the stadium will be getting very little sunlight, and without the movable floor the grass surface would have to be replaced almost every week. But things would be simpler with the movable floor, which could be moved, aerated and then “dried in the sun”...
In itself, the idea with the floor is not bad, but it has its flaws.
The thing is that the Russian Football Union led by the tireless Sergei Fursenko has just switched the country's competition schedule to the autumn-to-spring model, followed in most of Europe. This means that we won’t play football in the summer, we will play in the autumn, winter and spring. But in this case, it is very interesting under what sort of “sunlight” they plan to “dry” the moveable floor in the autumn-to-spring St Petersburg , with its traditional weather, when the sun does not peek in for weeks if not months?
“We will move powerful lamps along with the floor in order to dry it,” the stadium’s head architect Dmitry Bush told Novaya Gazeta’s reporter when asked this tricky question. From bad to worse: if the lamps are going to be used, then why move the floor at all? Why not just dry it inside? Or perhaps they want to keep the moving field under the Petersburg rain or wet snow at first, or “aerate” it in the frost (which in Petersburg can hit in November or in March, let alone in the winter months), and then to move it back and dry it with lamps? Finally, summertime, which is the most appropriate time for football, will be taken out under the new system.
“But it is in the summertime that UEFA plays!” the authors of the project protested. We had to remind them that UEFA doesn’t play in the summer: the European cups (except for qualifying games) begin in September and end in May. And hockey (for which the new facility will also be fit, along with basketball and volleyball, according to the designers) is not played in the summer. Basketball and volleyball competitions also take a break for the summer, and you can’t fill the stadium just with concerts in the summer months. So how can it “break even”, as Khazov assures us?
And last but not least. There was no need to increase the capacity of the Krestovsky Island facility: with the exception of Luzhniki Stadium, stadiums in other Russian cities that will be hosting the FIFA World Cup 2018, are planned to take between 43,000 and 48,000 viewers. But officials insist that a bigger stadium is needed to hold the world cup semi-finals: at this stage FIFA wants stadiums holding no fewer than 70,000 spectators (and at least 90,000 for the finals).
But wouldn’t that be too costly for the St Petersburg taxpayers (or Russian taxpayers if Putin grants Matvienko’s request) to pay that much for just one match? Or maybe they hope Russia is going to host another world or European cup in the next decades?
St Petersburg deputies, however, chose not to bother themselves with all of these considerations, and okayed the increase in the construction budget. It’s not their money, in the end, it’s from the budget, why bother?