Design & Development

Rio approves law to aid Vasco’s regeneration of São Januário

Featured image credit: Sérgio Dias

Campeonato Brasileiro Série A football club Vasco da Gama is set to proceed with plans to redevelop its historic São Januário home following the approval of a law by Rio de Janeiro’s City Council.

Vasco has played at the stadium, which has a current capacity of around 22,000, since it opened in 1927. As part of a major overhaul, plans are in place to upgrade and expand the venue to a capacity of 47,838, while maintaining and respecting the historic characteristics of the existing structure.

Construction work is due to begin in December, when the current Série A season ends, and the law approved by the City Council will essentially allow Vasco to transfer the unused development potential of the wider complex to interested companies.

Mayor Eduardo Paes, who is a Vasco fan, said: “Vasco da Gama touches all of us, even those who are not Vasco fans. We all have deep fond memories of this place, São Januário. It was not only the stage for many Vasco victories, but it is also part of Brazil’s political history.

“This was the club that first confronted racism in football, and it is worth remembering that. It was the club that showed the population, the Brazilian people, that it was possible to mix different races and social classes.

“For three years we discussed and debated this project with the City Council, this challenge of approving a law that would finance the new São Januário. And here, we are consolidating this space.”

In practice, the project allows the club to transfer the ‘right to build’ on the stadium footprint to interested parties, receiving income in return. The funds will only be permitted to be used for the renovation of the stadium and other improvements in the city.

The club will have to carry out maintenance to preserve the stadium’s historic façade and roof structure, as well as adapting the listed venue to current operating standards.

President of the City Council, Carlo Caiado, reiterated that the project includes not only the reconstruction of the stadium, but improvements that will benefit the surrounding community. He said: “This law, unanimously approved by the City Council, goes far beyond Vasco da Gama.

“It helps the stadium’s surrounding areas: São Cristóvão, Benfica, Caju. An amendment ensured that 6% of the amount will be invested in the region’s infrastructure.

“We know how important São Januário is to the region. When the stadium was closed, a study by the city government showed that almost 20,000 workers are directly or indirectly involved on game days. The city wins, the North Zone wins, and the Rio economy wins.”

Vasco’s president, former player Pedrinho, added: “This is a historic moment for us, remembering that São Januário was developed by an initiative of 10,000 fans, who had no connection whatsoever, no internet, and built the largest stadium in Latin America.

“With the modernisation of São Januário we bring the possibility of a much larger audience, revenue for the club and entertainment, and a stimulus for the economy of Rio de Janeiro.”

The news regarding Vasco comes after Flamengo last month made the first decisive step towards securing a stadium of its own after the City of Rio de Janeiro said it would expropriate land for the project.

The site identified formerly housed the São Cristóvão Gasômetro and has been managed by financial services group Caixa Econômica Federal since 2009. Flamengo expressed an interest in taking over the 86,000 square-metre site back in 2022.

The club is seeking to build an 80,000-seat stadium there but has faced obstacles in recent years as negotiations with the state-owned institution did not progress. However, Paes moved to progress talks to deliver a new stadium.