Two Possible Locations for Future National Football Stadium?

By 17 July 2018

No one knows who will pay for the new national football stadium and where it will be built, if it ever is.

Croatian footballers have achieved fantastic success at the World Cup in Russia, which again brought into focus the issue of sports infrastructure in Croatia, specifically the lack of a modern football stadium where the national team could play its matches. The Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb is in ruins and has been under intermittent reconstruction for more than twenty years, but many agree that today is in a worse shape than it was before the “reconstruction” began, reports on July 17, 2018.

It is estimated that around 800 million kuna, or more than 100 million euro, has been invested in it. There are plans for its further “modernization,” but most agree that it would best to demolish the monstrosity and perhaps build a new stadium at the same location.

However, in recent days another possibility has been raised. Ever active Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić announced that he would revitalize the "Blue Volcano" project which was first conceived ten years ago. The original project designed by architect Hrvoje Njirić included the construction of a magnificent stadium for 55,000 spectators at the Kajzerica neighbourhood in Zagreb, on a currently vacant lot next to the Zagreb Fair and the Hippodrome. The stadium, which was supposed to be a major landmark, would cost between 200 to 400 million euro.

However, Bandić now speaks about the construction of a smaller stadium, for 35,000 spectators, which would cost between 100 and 200 million euro and be ready in three years. According to the mayor's ever-optimistic calculations, Zagreb would provide 70 percent of the money, including the land plot, and 30 percent would be provided by the government and the Croatian Football Association (HNS).

Although the government and the president of the Republic have talked in recent days about the importance of building a new national stadium, there are no details about to the extent to which the state would be involved in the project. Similarly, the HNS will receive 28 million dollars for the result achieved at the World Cup in Russia. Sixty percent of the sum will go to the federation, while the rest will be divided among players and the coaching staff. It is not clear whether the federation is willing to participate in Bandić’s or any other stadium project.

Mayor of Velika Gorica near Zagreb, Dražen Barišić, called on the national stadium to be built there, offering vaguely “whatever it takes” to make the project a reality. The HNS has been trying to build a training camp for the national team, and it was said that the stadium could be located right next to it. At the time, Velika Gorica was mentioned as an optimal location because of the proximity of the airport, main roads, and Zagreb itself. However, on the other hand, most people do not think there should be a separate stadium just for the national team since Croatia is not as rich as France or England. The stadium should be used by both a club and the national team.

The only realistic option is that the stadium would also be used by Dinamo, which itself has problems, when it plays European matches, to provide the infrastructure required by the UEFA. However, it is hard to expect that Dinamo, including one of its most important fans, Milan Bandić, would accept to move the club to another town and another county, although the distance between Kajzerica and Gorica is just eight kilometres.

The experience of other countries which have built stadiums for 30,000 spectators and without any special design shows that such stadiums usually cost around 1,500 euro per seat or about 50 million euro.

Another interesting question is: why would the government use money provided by taxpayers from all parts of Croatia to construct a stadium which would mostly be used by Dinamo football club?