Design & Development

Work commences on China-backed Estadio Nacional for El Salvador

A groundbreaking ceremony has been held for Estadio Nacional, a new 50,000-seat stadium for El Salvador that will be developed by the Chinese Government.

The ceremony yesterday (Thursday) evening was attended by the Central American country’s President, Nayib Bukele, and Zhang Yanhu, China’s Ambassador to El Salvador. Located to the west of the capital city, San Salvador, the new state-of-the-art stadium is being built in the municipality of Antiguo Cuscatlán on land currently occupied by the Capitán General Gerardo Barrios military school.

Estadio Nacional will be the new home for El Salvador’s national football team along with an array of other events. It is set to cost more than $100m (£79m/€91.7m) with a three-year construction period set, meaning it will be delivered in early 2027.

“We are laying the first stone of what will be the most modern stadium in Latin America and the largest stadium in all of Central America,” said Bukele, according to local newspaper El Mundo.

“It is a stadium that will have capacity for 50,000 spectators, sitting in seats. I remember when they said that Estadio Cuscatlán had capacity for 40,000. Of course, but 40,000 all sitting close together and without steps to go down.

“Not here, we are talking about 50,000 spectators in seats, apart from 250 spaces for people in wheelchairs, VIP places, spaces for the press, which makes a total capacity of more than 52,000.”

In May 2021, Bukele announced a $500m cooperation agreement between El Salvador and China, an agreement that dates back to 2019, and which delivered a new National Library last month.

Bukele said Estadio Nacional will also offer parking space for 1,400 vehicles, with the wider complex to include two basketball courts and another football pitch. He added yesterday: “Just look at how beautiful the Estadio Nacional of El Salvador is going to be, a cathedral of sports and a testament to the friendship between the governments of China and El Salvador.”

It had been announced in May 2022 that work on the project would commence in September of last year. In January 2022, it was revealed that China would continue its ‘stadium diplomacy’ strategy by helping to develop a new national stadium for El Salvador.

The news was announced by Bukele, who stated that the Chinese Government’s backing of the project came as a result of a tour of Asia he conducted in late 2019 seeking out fresh investment for El Salvador.

The new stadium will replace Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador. The facility opened in July 1976, but is now limited to a capacity of 34,000 due to regulations from world football’s governing body, FIFA.