- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MADRID (AP) - Real Madrid will be adding a retractable roof to the Santiago Bernabeu after finally reaching an agreement with the city to remodel the stadium.

Madrid president Florentino Perez said Tuesday the project will cost 400 million euros ($447 million) and construction is expected to start next year.

The revamped venue, which will also carry a new facade, is expected to be fully completed by 2020.

“We will see a dramatic transformation of the Santiago Bernabeu,” Perez said. “This stadium is one of the emblematic icons of our city and we want to make it one of the best stadiums in the world and the undisputed symbol of the strength of our capital.”

Madrid had tried to remodel its famed venue for several times but earlier projects were turned down by the city and court decisions.

The new deal was announced at an event with Madrid Mayor Manuela Carmena.

“With this agreement we will start a process of modernization and transformation that will convert the stadium into an avant-garde architectural icon,” Perez said. “This stadium will act as an economic and touristic invigorator and will contribute to strengthening the image of our city.”

The venue originally inaugurated in 1947 will maintain its capacity of more than 80,000, although the seating sections may be redesigned. One of the stadiums most notable features, the four corner access towers, will be covered by the new facade.

Perez said the Santiago Bernabeu will maintain its name, but it may gain a “surname” from a sponsor like at stadiums “everywhere in the world.”

Abu Dhabi investment fund International Petroleum Investment Company is helping finance the renovation.

Because of the agreement with the city, Madrid won’t be allowed to increase the total size of the structures already in place, so it will have to rearrange the current constructions to be able to remodel the venue. Some office spaces will be transferred to the team’s base in Ciudad Real Madrid, in the city’s outskirts.

The club’s initial plan was to build a hotel and a shopping center along with the remodeled stadium, something that had prompted fierce opposition across the city. The club will still be able to use the new space commercially, but not how it originally planned.

Officials praised the fact that one of the stadium’s parking lots will be transformed into a large public area, and that the new roof will help reduce noise in the neighborhood.

“This deal happened to promote the modernization project of the stadium and to improve and urban environment around our beloved Bernabeu,” Carmena said.

The Bernabeu stands in the middle of the high-end neighborhood of Chamartin.

In March, rival Barcelona announced its own remodeling project for the Camp Nou, increasing capacity from 99,354 to 105,000 after construction is fully finished in about five years. The stadium will also have a new roof covering all seating sections.


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

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