Barcelona members have given the green light to a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) revamp of the club’s 99,354-seater Camp Nou stadium in a referendum on Sunday.
The vote was held electronically for the first time in the club’s history, with 42,693 backing the ambitious plans. Another 5,055 voted against the project and 875 abstained, with over 40 percent of the worldwide membership voting.
Members voiced doubts about the financing for the ‘Espai Barca’ project — which will come from third-party investment — at the general assembly recently due to the fact the club’s gross debt already stands at around €1.5bn.
That led president Joan Laporta to call Sunday’s referendum, with the need to update an ageing stadium prevailing over the risk of taking on more debt to pay for the proposals.
Barca can now get started on regenerating Camp Nou and the surrounding area, with work expected to be finished in 2025.
The Catalan club have said they will have to play with part of the stadium closed in 2022-23, while in 2023-24 it’s likely they will have to play elsewhere in the city, with the Olympic Stadium in the Montjuic neighborhood one option.
They would return to Camp Nou in 2024-25 as the final stages of the work are completed.
Ahead of the referendum, Laporta and his board of directors explained that the project is essential if the club want to keep up with Europe’s other big clubs, the majority of whom play in brand new or recently revamped stadiums.
Laporta has also argued that the work will eventually pay for itself, with it leading to an increase in annual revenue, while he has also confirmed the club are in talks to sell the naming rights to the stadium.
The €1.5bn project will see Barca transform their ground into a 105,000-seater stadium that they say will be “at the avant garde of technology.”
Camp Nou first opened in 1957 and it remains Europe’s largest stadium but the 64-year-old venue is in need of a face-lift.
The grand plans to renovate the ground were first approved by Barca members back in 2014 but due to myriad issues the club have only been able to carry out a tiny fraction of the proposed work.
The new Camp Nou will boast a retractable roof covered in 30,000 square metres 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 ground’s sustainability, rain water will also be collected and recycled.
Outside, the concourse will feature a raft of new office complexes and green spaces, as well as an on-site hotel, event spaces, an ice rink and the “Palau Blaugrana” — a smaller pavilion arena that is primarily the home of the basketball team.