Brazil's $3 billion World Cup stadiums are becoming white elephants a year later

Arena pantanalAlexandre Schneider/Getty ImagesThe Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba was closed for renovations earlier this year.

Nearly a year after the 2014 World Cup, many of the 12 stadiums Brazil built and renovated for the event have fallen into disuse.

NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and the AP’s Tales Azzoni have both written stories about what’s going on with the stadiums in recent weeks, and they don’t paint a pretty picture.

Brazil spent more than $US3 billion on the stadiums, some of which were built in far-flung locations without popular local professional teams to sustain them after the tournament. A year later some sit empty and others are running at a loss, and even the stadiums that host regular domestic games have been plagued by disputes between the clubs and the stadium operators.

The country’s sports minister has even acknowledged the failed investment of the 2014 World Cup stadiums, telling Reuters of the 2016 Rio Olympics, “Differently from the World Cup, we are leaving a legacy.”

Here’s the rundown of the problems facing the stadiums:

The Arena Amazonia in the jungle city of Manaus cost $US300 million to build, even though there’s no top-flight team in the town and it’s hundreds of miles from the more populated areas of Brazil. NPR reports that the stadium isn’t even hosting local league games because it’s too expensive. In addition, the promised income from things like concerts isn’t coming in as expected. KISS even skipped the Amazonian city on their tour of Brazil. The stadium hosted just 11 events in the five months after the tournament.

Manaus world cup 10REUTERS/Bruno KellyThe Arena Amazonia in Manaus cost $US300 million.

The Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, the most expensive of the stadiums, is being used as a bus parking lot. The stadium cost $US550 million to build, NPR reports, but without top-division team in the capitol it has little use after hosting seven World Cup games.

Construction on the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo just finished, 10 months late. During the tournament, a rickety temporary stand was used in place of the planned seating at one end of the stadium. The stadium now hosts Corinthians games, but it hasn’t helped the club. According to the AP, “Attendance has significantly increased at the stadium owned by popular team Corinthians, but the club can’t keep any of the revenue because the money is still being used to pay for its construction.”

Sao paulo stadium workersAPThe Arena Corinthians hosted the opening game of the World Cup.

The club team Atletico Mineiro plays its games at the old Independencia stadium in Belo Horizonte because it can’t make money playing at the new Estadio Mineirão because of their contract with the stadium’s owners, the AP reports.

2014 brazil world cup stadiums 15REUTERS/Washington AlvesThe Estadio Mineirão doesn’t host the city’s biggest team.

The 42,000-seat Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba was closed earlier this year because the roof was leaking. In April, Globo reported that homeless people were living in the empty locker rooms. The two professional teams in the city typically draw between 500 and 1,000 fans per game. The stadium cost $US215 million to build and is now, according to NPR, “draining city coffers” with maintenance costs.


The Arena das Dunas in Natal is “trying to make money by hosting weddings and kids’ parties — with little luck,” NPR reports.

Estadio das dunasMichael Heiman/Getty ImagesThe Arena das Dunas in Natal

Then there’s the Arena Pernambuco in Recife. Here’s how the AP described it in December:

The Arena Pernambuco in the northeastern city of Recife, where 236 people bought a ticket to watch a Brazilian Cup match just before the World Cup, is resorting to corporate events, conferences, fairs and wedding ceremonies. In September, a 15-year-old boy celebrated his birthday at the stadium — he and his friends were allowed to play on the field and use the changing rooms and other facilities.

Arena pernambucoREUTERS/Paulo WhitakerThe Arena Pernambuco.

FIFA only requires host nations to build eight stadiums, but Brazil went beyond that. Academics have long argued that building stadiums for one-off sporting events like the World Cup and Olympics isn’t a wise investment. Across Brazil, taxpayers and local officials are finding that out the hard way.

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