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Design & Development

Fiorentina considers rugby facility as temporary home during Franchi revamp

Featured image credit: Città di Firenze

Italian Serie A football club Fiorentina is exploring the possibility of building a temporary stadium while renovation work is carried out at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Fiorentina is planning a €193.4m (£166m/$209m) redevelopment of the Franchi, which opened in 1931 and has a current capacity of around 43,000. Mayor of Florence Dario Nardella said in March that the club would require a temporary home for two seasons while the project is carried out.

Fiorentina general manager Joe Barone has revealed that discussions have been held with Nardella regarding an expansion of a nearby rugby facility that could serve as the club’s temporary home. Barone said that a temporary structure with 16,000 seats could be built on the site where Firenze Rugby 1931’s home venue currently sits.

The Municipality of Florence owns the Franchi and is leading the renovation project, which has been met with multiple challenges. In April, the European Commission confirmed that Italy had been barred from directing almost €150m of COVID-19 recovery funds towards major stadium projects in Florence and Venice, €55m of which was destined for the Franchi.

“We had a positive meeting with Nardella, but we are sorry that our questions have not yet been answered,” Barone said, according to the Firenze Today website. “The Municipality has asked for an expert report from the sports credit to understand the revenue that could arrive with the new Franchi.

“As for the temporary stadium, we are working together with the Comune sul Padovani to build a temporary structure with 16,000 seats that can accommodate us during the Franchi works.

“The problem is that it must be done within a year, because in January 2024 there will be construction sites at the Franchi according to plans. Costs? We have not entered into this discussion, there are no details to talk about it, it is a proposal that the Municipality has presented to us. The Municipality must investigate it as soon as possible.”

Newly promoted Serie A club Cagliari has been playing at a temporary stadium, the Sardegna Arena, since the 2017-18 season while it builds a new home on the site of the old Stadio Sant’Elia ground. Cagliari hopes to move into the new stadium in 2025.

Last week, the Municipality of Florence played down the potential impact of an appeal lodged against the redevelopment of the Franchi. The appeal was filed to the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio (TAR) against the Ministry of Culture, Florence’s superintendence and the Municipality by Fondation PLN Project. The non-profit organisation is dedicated to preserving the legacy of renowned Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who died in 1979.

The Franchi was designed by Nervi and is considered one of the best examples of European architecture from the 20th century. The outlined plans for a significant redevelopment of the stadium have been met with considerable opposition.

In March 2022, the Italian division of engineering and design consultancy Arup was selected to lead the revamp, securing the architectural and multidisciplinary design contract. Arup’s proposal features a roof for the Franchi and new grandstands bringing fans closer to the pitch. The new capacity of the stadium would be at least 40,000.