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Design & Development

AC Milan takes first formal step on road to San Donato

Featured image credit: AC Milan

AC Milan has officially announced for the first time that it is pursuing a new stadium project away from its current Stadio Giuseppe Meazza home.

The Serie A football club today (Wednesday) said that it has “completed the first formal step”, in view of the potential future submission of a full project plan, by presenting to the San Donato Milanese council an urban development proposal for the San Francesco area. 

Milan in July was reported to have strengthened its focus on the comune of San Donato Milanese as a home for a potential new stadium by acquiring a majority stake in the company which owns the land being targeted, Sportlifecity.

The reports came after the Mayor of San Donato Milanese, Francesco Squeri, in June confirmed talks had been held with Milan after the club reportedly signed the first formal preliminary agreement to develop a new stadium in the comune.

Milan had reportedly locked on to San Donato Milanese as the site for its proposed new stadium, with MANICA Architecture said to be in the box seat to secure the contract to design the venue. It was reported earlier this month that MANICA had landed the deal.

San Donato, located around 10km southeast of Milan, was said to be in pole position owing to the fact it was said to be the location that presents the most functional and potentially fastest solution to the delivery of a stadium.

Specifically, San Francesco is the site that has been identified by Milan chiefs, with the view that a stadium located there could act as a “gateway to Milan”, with strong exposure to those travelling into and out of the city.

Milan said the objective of the proposal outlined today is to generate significant value for the area, which would then benefit from a sustainable and integrated development thanks to a series of upgrade works. These include the creation of a new ‘Gate to Milan’ to the south, an east-west connection from San Donato to the Chiaravalle Abbey and its parks, easier usability and services for the Parco Sud, and access to the possible future site.

The proposal also aims to create a single transport infrastructure hub in the Milan area, while simultaneously regenerating a derelict urban site. In particular, a key factor of the proposal is the promotion of sustainable mobility and public transport with improvement works on the existing infrastructure network, which would involve the railway station, the metro station and the road network, as well as a new system of pedestrianised walkways and cycle paths.

In terms of the total size of the project, the request for urban development lists the same gross surface area of 108,000 square metres already guaranteed by a Integrated Intervention Plan (IIP) approved in 2021, for a space dedicated largely to sporting activities, with a variety of multifunctional facilities and services set within 235,000 square metres of green space, compared to the approximately 80,000 square metres of the previous proposal.

The club has engaged CAA ICON to carry out the implementation of the project, while MANICA will be the design architect tasked with developing plans for a new stadium and the entire entertainment district.

The project hypothesis for the new stadium – the concept of which will be presented at a later stage – is to construct an “innovative, sustainable and multifunctional facility”, which can accommodate around 70,000 spectators.

The project aims to build the most sustainable stadium in Italy, and one of the most sustainable in Europe, by attaining LEED Gold certification, utilising energy-saving measures and using renewable energy sources, as well as implementing a water recycling system. 

Milan states it will also become a benchmark for accessibility, ensuring that fans with disabilities can watch matches safely from all sections of the ground. Alongside the stadium, the project hypothesis also sees the facility hosting the new club museum, an AC Milan store, the club’s new headquarters, a hotel, and an entertainment district, as well as an energy centre for the production of sustainable power.

Paolo Scaroni, AC Milan’s chairman, said in a statement: “For over four years, we have embarked with conviction on a journey aimed at giving our club one of the best stadiums in the world, which is able to accompany us into a victorious and sustainable future.

“This represents a preliminary step in the evolution of this process but, at the same time, it is further proof of our ownership’s commitment to guaranteeing continuous growth for AC Milan both on and off the pitch.”

Squeri added: “It is an important day that presents us with decisions, whatever they may be, which will still have an impact on the future of our city. A project has been officially registered which can represent, not only for San Donato, a challenge and an opportunity for development, work and social growth.

“Now, after the Sportlifecity company has formalised the choice of San Donato for the post-San Siro, our work as an administration begins. The project contents will be carefully evaluated for an initial feasibility check linked to the start of the procedural process. 

“As already stated on many occasions, once the feasibility of the urban planning operation presented has been verified, we will study and implement all the tools to guarantee the involvement of the City Council, citizens, associations and political parties in a choice that must be placed at the centre the public interest of an operation that has the ambition of making our city seize a great opportunity for revitalisation and attractiveness in the coming years.”

Still time for San Siro?

In December 2021, Populous saw off competition from MANICA/Sportium to land the original contract to design a new stadium. Populous’ project, dubbed ‘The Cathedral’, was selected, with the coming weeks having promised the finalisation of the objectives and development process of Milan’s new stadium.

However, the venture has since been mired in bureaucratic red-tape to the extent that both Milan and Inter, which was due to share the proposed new stadium with its arch rival, are now pursuing alternative plans. Indeed, Inter this month presented initial proposals for a new 70,000-capacity stadium to be built in the Rozzano commune to local political leaders.

Plans for the construction of a ‘new San Siro’ seemingly officially ended last month after a regional body in Lombardy ruled the long-time home of Milan and Inter cannot be demolished.

The Lombardy Regional Commission for Cultural Heritage, agreeing with a previous decision by the Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape, ruled that the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza’s second tier assumes protected status in 2025 when it will have been in situ for 70 years.

Under historic monuments and cultural icon rules it would be illegal to knock down the existing structure, meaning plans to build a new stadium on the site cannot now proceed. Both clubs have already stated that it would not be possible to “adapt the existing facility to current regulatory requirements”.

Scaroni today left the door open to the original project, despite the club’s announcement on San Donato. He told reporters: “We are not saying ‘thanks and goodbye’. The San Siro hypothesis is further away but it is not dead. For our part, however, we are moving forward like a train on the San Donato project on which we have worked a lot.”