Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades staked its claim as one of the most advanced stadia in Argentina as it yesterday (Thursday) staged its first major event.

Prior to the Supercopa football match, which saw River Plate run out 5-0 winners against Racing Club, the Estadio Único was officially inaugurated at a ceremony attended by Argentina’s President, Alberto Fernández, and Gerado Zamora, Governor of the province of Santiago del Estero.

Located in the province’s capital, also named Santiago del Estero, plans for the Estadio Único were first unveiled in April 2018, with work commencing two months later. The stadium was officially completed in May 2020, but it has taken nearly a year for its first major event to arrive.

The stadium design complies with FIFA, South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and Argentinian Football Association (AFA) standards and will be a host venue at this year’s rescheduled Copa América, which Argentina will co-host with Colombia.

The stadium centres on a cylindrical design with covered grandstands and has been hailed as one of the most modern venues in the country. Developed on a 20-hectare site, the 30,000-seat stadium offers spacious outdoor areas for circulation and outdoor activities.

Underground parking is located below the stands with capacity for 460 cars. The stadium bowl feature two giant LED screens, measuring 14 by eight metres, as well as restaurants and an interactive museum.

However, it is the stadium’s 23 VIP boxes that have drawn attention due to their lavish fittings. One is for the exclusive use of Zamora, and with Santiago del Estero said to be one of Argentina’s poorest provinces, with 42.5% of its residents living below the poverty line, spending on the stadium has been criticised.

With an initial budget of 970 million pesos (£7.8m/€9m/$10.7m), the price tag for the stadium eventually finished at 1.5 billion pesos. Speaking at the inauguration, Fernández defended the spending on the venue.

Fernández said, according to the Infobae website: “Who said that in Santiago del Estero there cannot be a football stadium like this? Where is that written? When we are advancing in works of this type and we are carrying out public works – school infrastructure, hospitals, more sports, more tourism – what we are doing is generating equality in Argentina.”

Images: Estadio Único Madre de Ciudades