Dario Nardella, the Mayor of Florence, has fleshed out the Municipality’s vision for an “ambitious and wide-ranging” redevelopment of the historic Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Nardella last month reiterated the Municipality’s commitment to the Franchi stating that an international competition would soon be launched to find a partner to conduct “one of the most important restyling interventions” in the world.

Nardella spoke after Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso slammed a ruling from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBACT) that stated the Franchi cannot be demolished or undergo a major redevelopment due to its historic status.

The decision appeared to mark the latest blow to the Serie A football club’s long-held ambitions to either redevelop the Franchi or move to a new stadium elsewhere in Tuscany. The Franchi is owned by the Municipality of Florence and in response to MiBACT’s ruling, Fiorentina said the onus was now on the authorities to deliver improvements, adding that for the club the Stadio Franchi project was “closed”.

Nardella’s office is now taking on the project in the belief that the MiBACT ruling still leaves sufficient room to significantly modernise the Franchi, which first opened in 1931. Addressing a city council meeting earlier this week, Nardella said: “We have taken note of the decision of the Fiorentina owners not to invest in a new Franchi stadium and on the basis of this we have humbly decided to build our path independently.

“In this regard, I take this opportunity to reiterate my position, and that of the council… on the possibility of a new stadium in Campi (Bisenzio). Fiorentina is a private entity free to make its own choices. For our part, there is the utmost willingness to evaluate, together with the Tuscany Region and the Municipality of Campi Bisenzio, a technical-economic feasibility study as soon as it is presented. For the rest, we have always believed that a 40,000-seat stadium should be included in a wider infrastructure system.”

Nardella continued: “As an administration, we have a goal that now comes before any other and that for us is no longer negotiable and postponable. It is the goal of honouring the history of Florence, of honouring the history of our team and to give fans a stadium that lives up to their expectations, their dreams, a stadium that meets the best European standards.”

Nardella stated the Municipality would never allow the Franchi to be “abandoned”, even if a new stadium is developed, stating the need for renovation has “never been questioned”. He added: “Now, after having tried in every way to build a new stadium, we are more determined than ever to commit to Campo di Marte. The project we have in mind is ambitious and wide-ranging and for this reason it will involve all the competent departments.”

With this in mind, the Mayor outlined his vision for a broader redevelopment of the Campo di Marte area, which he stated is expected to need total investment of around €500m (£438.1m/$606.7m), €120m of which would be dedicated to the stadium.

Nardella said: “A fundamental aspect of this process, which I would like to highlight, is the economic one: we have set ourselves the criteria of not diverting a euro from services to citizens. We will not spend a euro more than what the Municipality already spends today on the Franchi and we will not remove a single euro from the sports facilities of the whole city, which instead, just like all the economic fabric of the city, will be enriched by this operation.”

Nardella outlined a multi-stage timeline for the project, commencing as soon as next week with an initial investment of €300,000 in safety improvements. A further €700,000 will be invested to bring the Franchi up the required standards for fans to return, when COVID-19 restrictions allow. Some €7m has also been set aside for structural improvements further ahead.

The Mayor said work has already started on drawing up a tender for an international design competition for the redevelopment of the Franchi, which is intended to be launched by the end of April.

Nardella added: “We have decided to create an international design competition that will allow us to give the City of Florence a very high level result: one of the most important restylings of sports facilities anywhere in the world. A point of reference in terms of environmental sustainability and innovation.

“As I have already said, there is the idea of ​​creating a museum centre inside it, but let’s think of a stadium with a conference centre, restaurants, commercial activities, a gallery, meeting rooms available to companies, gyms. In short, inside the stadium we will be able to insert functions that guarantee the best usability during events, but also in the rest of the week.”

Image: Sailko/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size