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In Search of a Stadium

Fans have longed for Milan to own their own stadium for years. Long before Juventus presented their proposal and then saw it through, Milan fans dreamed of either kicking Inter out and buying the San Siro or possibly building a new stadium to call home. But that is easier said than done. Much easier said than done, as other Italian teams attempting to build or even own their own stadium will attest. Once Barbara Berlusconi and her team put the stadium as a major focus, things have developed well enough, considering. Until yesterday, when the Fondazione Fiero put a screeching halt to Milan’s progress… again. Leaving Milan still in search of a stadium.

The proposal with the most longterm financial appeal

After inquiring about and looking into several different locations in and around the city of Milan, the club chose the Portello area as the most desirable. It is my understanding that Casa Milan’s location there was not the only reason, even if it is very convenient. The accessibility, size, cost, and other factors went into choosing the location. But once the site was chosen, Milan had to put in a bid for it. This is where the Fondazione Fiero comes into the picture. They own the land, and get to decide which bid they want to develop the area.

There have been protests from local residents from the very beginning about Milan’s proposed stadium. Concerns about existing establishments such as schools and what might happen to them rose immediately. Residents were concerned about inevitable noise and traffic. They were concerned about safety and security, concerned about having enough firefighters and police officers. But then they began to fear more. Like with the violence in Rome and fans who have been killed. Even though the most violent thing I know of in Milano in recent years was when the Curva Sud barricaded the players in the garage of the San Siro and threatened to hit them with sticks, which wouldn’t even impact the neighbors. But the residents fear much, much worse than that. And some people fear Milan's ability to actually pay for it, too. But they are getting ahead of themselves. First Milan must win the bid, then show the ability to finance the project, something they're already obviously working on.

A view of the proposed Milano Alta, the "safe" bet for neighbors, but lacking in vision and longterm revenue

A couple of other proposals came forward, the most viable one that is competing with Milan’s stadium is called Milano Alta. It was proposed by Vitali, and utilizes existing buildings to create a “green zone,” an environmentally friendly area. In addition to a 350 room hotel and restaurants, it would feature a pedestrian and cycling track 7 meters in the air, similar to the High Line in New York City. The roof garden would offer places for recreation and technological innovation startup, amongst other things. This bid is preferred by many of the residents in the area as it doesn’t threaten them. For those who are nostalgic, much of the architecture that currently exists would remain, so it is familiar. The construction would be less, meaning less inconvenience, and the end result a more desirable addition to their neighborhood for many residents.  

The AC Milan proposed stadium is designed to absorb the majority of the noise of the games. It is planned to be built into the ground not only to help contain the noise, but also to keep the height of the structure from overpowering the neighborhood. It too has green areas on the roof, a hotel and restaurants and shopping. But the massive advantage that the Milan stadium has is revenue. It would bring lots of money and jobs to an area that is “dead” and needs to be revitalized. Casa Milan is already becoming a tourist destination, but the stadium would make much more so. And it would be used for other purposes, too, when the team is not playing. In fact, the area is conceptualized as a center for residents and visitors to take advantage of seven days a week, and something that would increase the value of the property in the area for residents and others.

The inside of the proposed Milan house of worship for 48,000 fans and their spending money

Yesterday, Fondazione Fiera were supposed to announce a decision between the two, something they’ve been meant to do several times already. But they postponed it again, saying that both proposals were considered “equal” and they couldn’t decide. But they are not equal. One is far less bold, although less likely to create problems. However it is also less likely to bring in revenue. It is not a project which will bring people from all over the world, it would simply move business from another part of the city.

The proposed Milan stadium would increase the tourism from all over the world, not just on game days, that is already growing at Casa Milan. That is revenue from all over the world, as opposed to simply moving some revenue from one part of the city to another. The project is much bigger, and thus more likely to create a sustaining center and revenue source for the area for years and years to come. Unlike the Milano Alta proposal, which has little interest to draw revenue short or long-term and is thus much less sustainable in the long run.

Either way, I understand the concerns of the residents. But a decision must be made, better now than to keep putting it off or to use it as a political pawn in next year’s elections. Casa Milan has been open for over a year now, and I know of nothing that has impacted the neighborhood negatively, not even when there have been large gatherings there. To build the stadium next to Casa Milan and with excellent public transportation to access it would be a dream for Milan fans.

The two projects may both have pros and cons for the neighbors, and Fondazione Fiera may be struggling to pick between the two. But they are hardly equal. For the Milan stadium proposal carries with it the hopes and dreams of millions of fans worldwide. There can be no other proposal like it in the city of Milan. It is not just another community area with some amenities. The AC Milan proposal would be a house of worship, a place of great love, a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world. Milan fans, in search of a stadium.

EDIT: Approximately eleven hours after this post went up, the Fondazione Fiera chose Milan's bid for the Portello area.

This post inspired by the music of Madness’ “Our House”