Building the World Cup: An in-depth look at Russia’s stadia

SportsPro examines the business behind Russia's World Cup stadia, as well as the challenges faced in preparing the 12 venues for the tournament.

Building the World Cup: An in-depth look at Russia’s stadia

Ever since Fifa’s members awarded the 2018 men’s soccer World Cup to Russia, there has been a sense of chaos surrounding its organisation.

Six out of 12 stadia were built from scratch, with stories of delays, downsizing and cost-cutting causing considerable concern in the build-up to the tournament. However, as the quadrennial soccer showpiece gets underway, the venues are ready.

SportsPro examines the economics of the stadia – all of which required renovation, and all but one of which were built using public finances.

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Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Capacity: 81,006
Opened: 1956 (renovation completed in 2018)

The Luzhniki Stadium will become the fifth venue to host a World Cup final, a Champions League final and be the main Olympic Games stadium on 15th July. Owned by the Government of Moscow, the Luzhniki reopened in November 2017 after four years of redevelopments, which cost US$410 million. As part of the renovations to the 81,000-seater stadium, 3,000 surveillance cameras and 1,500 sensors were added as the entirety of the stadium’s interior was remodelled. The stadium’s roof has been fitted with LEDs, to form a giant screen to display live scores, videos and the flags of participating nations. Thanks to the venue’s high-speed WiFi, fans will be able to download an app to their mobile devices, allowing them to watch replays and highlights during the games. The funding for the work came from the municipal budget, according to the Mayor of Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin.

Moscow's Luzhiniki Stadium will host the final on 15 July

Spartak Stadium, Moscow

Capacity: 43,298
Opened: 2014

The Otkritie Arena will be known as the Spartak Stadium during the World Cup because of Fifa’s rules relating to sponsorship. In 2013, a year before the stadium was officially opened, Spartak Moscow signed a six-year deal with Otkritie Bank worth US$40.11 million for the naming rights of the venue. The majority of the financing of the stadium, which was designed by AECOM, came via the Russian Premier League club’s owner Leonid Fedun through his affiliation to Russian organisations IFD Kapital Group and Lukoil Oil Company. Despite Otkritie running into financial difficulty last year, Russia’s central bank stated that it did not intend to prevent them from continuing its sponsorship of the soccer club. In 2016, Fedun stated that it was unlikely that the stadium would ever pay for its original construction cost of approximately US$395 million. He said: “According to our calculations, it’ll never generate enough. If the country’s economic situation improves, if we have stadiums with 90 per cent occupancy and if average ticket price was £60 like in England, then we could hope for return on investment in 25 years.” The stadium is the World Cup venue to be built without government money.

The Otkritie Arena - as it is normally known - is the home to Spartak Moscow

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Capacity: 45,331
Opened: 2018

The Nizhny Novgorod Stadium is one of six stadia to be built from scratch in time for this year’s World Cup. Situated at the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers, construction of the new venue was originally budgeted at US$240 million by the Russian Ministry of Sport. However, the final spend exceeded projections by some US$50 million. The project was undertaken by OAO Stroytransgaz, who were originally a subsidiary of Gazprom, but now operate under the control of Russian businessman Gennady Timchenko. Nizhny Novgorod is Russia’s fifth most populous city, with more than one million citizens. However, its local soccer team, Olimpiyets Nizhny Novgorod, does not even compete in Russian soccer’s top tier and has historically struggled to bring in spectators. Russia have spent US$1.1 billion on improving the infrastructure of Nizhny Novgorod in preparation for the tournament, while the local authorities of the city have asked that upkeep for the stadium be anchored in the Russian budget for three years after the tournament.

Nizhny Novgorod is home to more than 1.2 million residents

Mordovia Arena, Saransk

Capacity: 44,442
Opening: 2018

The decision to build the Mordovia Arena in the city of Saransk had been planned before Russia was announced as the World Cup’s host nation. Saransk is the smallest of the cities being used and as such, was a surprise choice to many. The stadium was designed by SaranskGrazhdanProekt, a local group of architects. The proposed cost of the stadium has varied since its construction first began in 2010, but after a money-saving campaign in recent years, the final figure came to US$295 million. The 44,442-seater venue will be reduced after the tournament’s conclusion, with much of the infrastructure temporary. There are plans for shops and gyms to be incorporated into surrounding areas after the World Cup. Post-tournament local club Mordovia Saransk will move into the stadium, with the capacity reduced to 28,000. The stadium has been given its name of the Mordovia Arena in tribute to the Mordovian people of Russia – a large ethnicity of a rich cultural and linguistic heritage.

After the World Cup, the Mordovia Arena will be used by FC Mordovia, as well as for volleyball, basketball and tennis

Kazan Arena, Kazan

Capacity: 44,779
Opening: 2013

The Kazan Arena opened in 2013 and is home to the city’s local soccer team, Rubin Kazan. It cost the club US$250 million to build under Kazan’s previous ownership. Until 2017, the club had always been owned and financed by Tatarstan, a federal republic of the Russian Federation. However, last year Kazan became privately owned for the first time, with the Tatar-American Investments and Finance company, better known as TAIF, taking over. TAIF is a Russian holding company, controlling 96 per cent of the refining industries of Tatarstan. It employs over 45,000 people and has an annual turnover of US$9.6 billion. The major shareholder, and now the president of Rubin, is Radik Shaimiev, the 88th richest person in Russia, who, according to Forbes, is worth US$1.1 billion. The Kazan Arena bears resemblance to two London venues: Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Wembley, having been built by the same group of architects. Damon Lavelle, the Australian who also designed Benfica’s Estadio da Luz, drawing up the plans.

The Kazan Arena has the largest outside screen in Europe

Samara Arena, Samara

Capacity: 44,198
Opening: 2018

Opening just one and a half months before the start of the tournament, the Samara Arena was the last of the 12 stadia to be completed. It was originally estimated that the venue would be finished by mid-2017. However, cost issues in the construction of the stadium caused delays, coupled with problems with the scale of the ambition in the original design. At one point, the estimated figure rose to an estimated US$327 million, before those in charge substituted some of the plan’s materials in an effort to economise. Ultimately, the stadium cost US$310 million to complete, with one subcontractor, Stalmontazh-Elektrostal, declaring itself bankrupt in the process. This came after Tatdorstroy, a general contractor for the stadium’s construction, accused Sergey Ulasevich, the general director of Stalmontazh-Elektrostal, of theft. After the tournament, the Samara Arena will be known as the Cosmos Arena – named in recognition of Samara’s history as the centre of Russia’s space program.

The stadium will be known as the Cosmos Arena after the World Cup

Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg

Capacity: 35,696
Opened: 1957

The Ekaterinburg Arena has broken new ground in preparing itself for the 2018 World Cup. Originally built in the 1950s, the stadium’s design was unusual even before its revolutionary rebuild. Originally seating thousands fewer than the Fifa minimum requirement of 35,000, Russian architects ABD Architect and PI Arena put a plan in place that has seen temporary stands erected behind both goals. What is unprecedented, however, is that the stands are outside the stadium, with 12,000 fans watching from steep rows of seating that stand 45m high. The cost of the unique renovation has come to US$220 million, with funds allocated by the Government of the Russian Federation. Once the tournament comes to an end, the retractable seating will be removed, leaving local soccer club Ural Yekaterinburg with a 23,000-seater venue.

The Ekaterinburg Arena is unique in that the stands behind the two goals have both been erected outside the stadium


St Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg

Capacity: 68,134
Opened: 2017

Building of the St Petersburg Stadium was originally due to be funded by Gazprom and completed in 2009. However, in 2009 Gazprom pulled out of putting any further investment into the venue, choosing instead to focus on a skyscraper project. The city government of St Petersburg stepped in, funding the stadium to its completion. Yet, on 25th July, 2016 the general contractor, Inzhtransstroy-Spb, claimed that the local authorities had failed to make an agreed payment of one billion rubles (US$15.8 million at the time). As a result, they stopped working and their contract was terminated the following day. A month later, Metrostroy, a new contractor took control of the construction. When building work finally finished, the Krestovsky Stadium was rumoured to be one of the most expensive of all time, with a rumoured cost of more than US$1.5 billion – more than 500 per cent over the initial budget. It had been scheduled to open in 2008, but delays and then Russia’s successful World Cup bid meant that plans had to be redrawn to expand the then 40,000-seater concept to accommodate 68,000. This meant reordering parts that had already arrived, as well as redesigning other aspects. This, however, was made more difficult because of the death of Kisho Kurakawa, who had designed the original model. Although the venue is known as the Krestovsky Stadium or the Zenit Arena, it will be known as the St Petersburg Stadium throughout the World Cup.

Due to its numerous delays in construction, the Krestovsky Stadium is one of the most expensive of all time

Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad

Capacity: 35,212
Opened: 2018

The Kaliningrad Stadium is the only stadium situated outside mainland Russia, located on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania. With a capacity of 35,212, it is one of the most modest World Cup venues in recent times, having suffered a series of delays and problems in the last six years. In October 2012, the region’s authorities opened up a competition to move the design of the stadium forward. However, the winner, Mostovik, was declared bankrupt by the Omsk Arbitration Court in 2014. In the same year, ZAO Crocus International was announced as the executor of the construction by the Russian Ministry of Sport. The problems faced during the US$300 million project have led to a downsizing of 10,000 from the original design of a 45,000-seater. After the tournament, the stadium will have a further 10,000 seats removed, with Russian second-tier soccer club Baltika Kaliningrad becoming the ground’s tenants.

The Kaliningrad Stadium is the only one of the 12 venues not to be situated in mainland Russia

Volgograd Arena, Volgograd

Capacity: 45,568
Opened: 2018

The Volograd Arena – as is its interim name – is another purpose-built stadium and was only officially completed at the start of April when the Russian Ministry of Sport announced that the stadium had received clearance for use. Stroytransgaz, the stadium’s general contractor, was charged with the task of completing the US$300 million project near the border with Kazakhstan. It was designed by PI Arena, GMP Architekten.

The Volgograd Arena hosted the Russian Cup final in May

Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don

Capacity: 45,145
Opened: 2018

Construction of the Rostov Arena finished early this year, four years after ground was first broken. The official design for the stadium was drawn up by global market leaders, Populous. The concept was unique, featuring an asymmetrical 45,000-seater stadium with a lightweight overlapping roof. This project, however, never came to fruition. Very little of the original, ground-breaking design remains in the finished product. In many ways, it makes the Rostov Arena the least impressive of the 12 World Cup venues. 5,000 of the seats are temporary and will be removed once the tournament ends, with Russian Premier League soccer club FC Rostov set to move in afterwards. The final cost of the stadium’s state-funded construction was US$330 million – more than double what was initially budgeted.

Because of financial issues, the Rostov Arena hardly resembles the orignal dsign plans

Fisht Stadium, Sochi

Capacity: 47,659
Opened: 2013

Of all the World Cup stadia that have required pre-tournament renovation, the Fisht Stadium has been the cheapest, with the flagship venue of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics requiring just a further US$68 million to convert the stadium that hosted both the opening and closing ceremonies into a soccer venue. The roof has been removed to comply with Fifa regulations. The initial cost of building the stadium was far more expensive at more than US$400 million. It was designed by Populous and British design consultancy BuroHappold Engineering. However, what happens next is yet to be fully determined; Sochi does not have a professional soccer team and, thus, the stadium’s legacy is as yet unconfirmed.

The Fisht Stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and had to be renovated to be deemed suitable to host soccer matches. What happens after the World Cup is unknown at this point.