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Spain's Iconic Grounds Getting Revamped

By Robbie Raskin -- May 01, 2014 4:28 PM EDT

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On the 24th of this May, the hotly anticipated final of the UEFA Champions League will take place in Lisbon, Portugal between Madrid's two biggest teams; Real and Atletico. The action on the pitch is sure to be exciting but Atletico supporters can soon look forward to even bigger things as they approach their expected 2015 move-in to the new Estadio La Peineta currently under construction in the city. Atletico's supporters are not the only ones seeing stadium changes; a handful of La Liga clubs will see new homes or significant renovations within the next few years.

Perhaps best known are the controversial changes approved for FC Barcelona's iconic Camp Nou. Beginning in 2017, the stadium will see an expansion to 105,000 seats, new corporate hospitality zones, and a prominent new roof to cover the entire stadium as well as cosmetic improvements to the stadium exterior and surrounding area. The most controversial aspect of this project is the clause that the stadium will see corporate sponsorship by Qatar Airways. The team assured fans that the Camp Nou name would stay, but it seems likely that it may be changed to Qatar Airways Camp Nou or something similar. This is particularly important for Barca as the club staunchly resisted shirt sponsorship until recently. The reconstruction will also extend to nearby indoor arena Palau Blaugrana and a potential new, smaller outdoor stadium.

If Camp Nou is the most well-known stadium in Spain, Real Madrid's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu is a very close second. Renovations first proposed in 2012 here are no less divisive as it seems Coca-Cola will be getting naming rights to the stadium. The renovations themselves will see the addition of new premium seating sections as well as a new tier of regular seats. There will also be the addition of a shopping mall and hotel adjoining one end of the stadium and a futuristic metallic cladding will be wrapped around the exterior of the entire stadium with advanced LED lighting to display promotional material as well as team footage. Construction should begin this year.

Across town Spain's third-best known stadium, Vicente Calderon, is likely to see its last football in the near future as Atletico Madrid prepare to move into their new home in the eastern end of the city. The new stadium is already standing, built with Madrid's unsuccessful 2012 Olympic bid in mind, and final preparations for Atletico are underway. Again, the naming rights issue has cropped up here, with Etihad Airlines the rumoured sponsor. Recently deceased Atletico legend Luis Aragones will be honoured with a street outside the ground but thousands of supporters wanted the stadium named after him. Atletico are likely to move in around 2016 or so.

Meanwhile in the city of Valencia, work on the partially-built Nou Mestalla stadium to replace existing Estadio Mestalla, home of Valencia CF, has been protracted and irregular as financial troubles plague the project. Begun in 2007, construction for the stadium stalled in 2009 before the club released a scaled-down set of designs in 2013. Work still has not recommenced and the stadium remains a concrete skeleton for now.

Atletico Bilbao are another club who's new stadium dreams may be in jeopardy as their proposed new San Mames Barria stadium has been under investigation by the EU for illegal misappropriation of state funds and work is not going forward.

In more positive news, Real Sociedad unveiled plans at the beginning of April for new Estadio Anoeta, a 42,300-seat stadium to be built by 2017 in the city of San Sebastian. So far the project has been progressing smoothly.

Finally, on the backburner since 2001, Deportivo La Coruna have had plans for a futuristically-designed stadium complex called Nuevo Riazor, featuring a hotel and commercial space. There has been little news on that front however in recent years.

All in all, Spanish football fans can look forward to some exciting changes to their experiences in attending football matches in the years to come, but there are still many aspects of the future up in the air for new and supposedly improved sporting experiences in Spain.

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