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But “the Arena das Dunas is really a nice stadium, it’s very pretty and very comfortable,” he added. “It will attract a lot of people, especially families and kids, it will be more accessible to them, safer.”

“I think we may get double the attendance in the new stadium.”

Alex Padang, the outgoing president of America, echoed that. After the 40-year-old Machadao stadium was demolished in 2011 to make space for the World Cup ground, America set up temporarily some 50 miles from Natal, making it “the team that had to play away from home for the longest time in the entire world,” Padang said by phone.

“There’s no doubt that the Arena das Dunas will be good for us,” he said. More than 1,300 people have joined the club’s new membership program launched recently to take advantage of the new arena. This season, America attracted 2,000 fans per game, he said. In the new stadium, Padang expects crowds of 25,000 for important matches, falling to 5,000 for low-profile games.

“Our fans needed a long trip to get to our games, now they’ll be a bus ride away,” he said.


AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo contributed to this report. Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at) or follow him at