Barcelona members gave the green light for a 1.5 billion euro ($1.7 billion) renovation of the 99,354-seat Camp Nou in a referendum on Sunday.
Voting took place electronically for the first time in the club’s history, with 42,693 supporting the ambitious plans. Another 5055 voted against the bill and 875 abstained, with more than 40 percent of members worldwide voting.
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Members expressed doubts about the financing of the “Espai Barca” project – which will come from a third-party loan – at the General Assembly recently due to the fact that the club’s total debt is already around 1.5 billion euros.
That prompted President Joan Laporta to call a referendum on Sunday, with the need to update the old pitch that reigns at the risk of taking on more debt to advance the proposals.
Barcelona can now begin renovating the Camp Nou and the surrounding area, with work expected to be completed in 2025.
The Catalan club said that they will have to play with part of the stadium closed in 2022-23, while in 2023-24 they are likely to play elsewhere in the city, with the option of the Olympic stadium in the Montjuïc district.
They will return to Camp Nou in 2024-25 with the final stages of work complete.
Before the referendum, Laporta and his board of directors made it clear that the project was necessary if the club wanted to keep pace with other big clubs in Europe, most of which play in completely new or recently renovated stadiums.
Laporta has also argued that the business will eventually pay for itself, as it will increase annual revenue, while also confirming that the club is in talks to sell the naming rights to the stadium.
The €1.5 billion project will see Barcelona transform into a 105,000-seat stadium they say will be “at the cutting edge of technology”.
The Camp Nou first opened in 1957 and is still the largest stadium in Europe, but the 64-year-old stadium needs a facelift.
Grand plans to renovate the land were first approved by Barcelona members in 2014 but due to a myriad of issues the club was only able to carry out a small part of the proposed work.
The new Camp Nou will boast a retractable roof covered with 30,000 square meters 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 sustainability of the land, rainwater will also be collected and recycled.
Outside, the lobby will feature a range of new office complexes and green spaces, as well as an on-site hotel, event spaces, an ice rink and a “Palau Blaugrana” – a smaller pavilion arena that is essentially the home of a basketball team.