Milan's "Stadio Ecomostro": The Monstrous Task of Trying to Build a Stadium in Italy

Milan have been trying to build a stadium for years. It was a key component of Elliott Management's plan for Milan, and in four years of hard work, they made zero progress. This is the vulture fund that has brought entire nations to their knees, but they could not even begin to build a stadium in Italy. Cardinale is in Milano this week, trying to make things happen, but I am not sure he is aware of the monstrous battle he faces. For example, on Friday, it was reported that the residents in the area of the potential new stadium said the new stadium will be an "ecomostro" (eco-monster) and that they wanted greenery instead. They literally haven't even seen a stadium plan drawn up yet, but they are already protesting about it. Personally, I think Milan should name the stadium "Stadio Ecomostro" in their honor... if it ever gets built.

This place is crying out for a "Stadio Ecomostro"

The irony in the residents protesting about the new stadium is that previous stadium plans have included more lush greenery and park space than is even available on that land now. Milan is committed to creating an ecologically-friendly, sustainable, and carbon neutral stadium that will meet all city guidelines for greenery and park space. And there are even reports that the club could help broker a deal to open up other green areas that are currently closed to the public. 

But immediately upon hearing about the possibility of a new stadium, an environmentalist alarm went out from city hall to "defend the neighborhood from cement." (Likely many of the same people who will not let anyone tear the San Siro down, just one kilometer away, with all of its tons of cement.) And last weekend, around 3,000 protestors literally formed a human chain in the area where the stadium could be built to defend from something that is purely theoretical at this point. They have no idea what it is, but they definitely know they don't want it.

3,000 local residents protested last weekend, even though they have no idea what it is they are protesting.

Milan have been trying to build a stadium for ten years now. In addition to decorating Casa Milan, Silvio Berlusconi gave his daughter Barbara the project of planning a new stadium back in 2013. She was incredibly efficient and effective at locating various sites and getting plans drawn up and permits started. But when it was time to actually invest money, daddy put a stop the charade that he had hoped would keep her out of Galliani's business for much longer. That was back in 2015.

All of the talks with Mr. Bee Taechaubol to buy the club at that time were a wild goose chase, but from all of those years of negotiations, Yonghong Lee begged, borrowed and/or stole as much money as he could to purchase Milan. He, too promised to build a stadium. When he defaulted on his loans, Elliott Management took control of the club, and they also planned to build a stadium as a joint project with Inter. They filed their first formal plans in 2019, and that was when the bureaucracy really began to become frustrating. If that plan had been able to be fulfilled, the stadium would have been scheduled to be completed this year

In 6 years, Mayor Sala has accomplished nothing. A classic politician.

At the heart of all of the bureaucracy is Milano mayor Giuseppe Sala. Originally elected in 2016, he has been 100% politician throughout this entire process. When it was time for him to make a decision about Milan's plans to tear down the San Siro and build a new stadium, he said he would have to wait until after elections so as not to burden the next city leaders with his decision. When he was re-elected, he conveniently forgot about that promise.

When pressed for answers, he decided that there must be a "public debate" about the project, which took even more time and I believe cost the two teams around €1.5 million (yes, they had to pay for this ridiculous process.) While the initial technical plans echoed the findings from years earlier, that the San Siro was no longer structurally safe or viable to be refitted or restructured, he allowed the public discourse and drama around tearing it down to go on. Literally, it has been four years of this public drama now.  Actually, six years since he was approached by the club with Yonghong Li about building a new stadium, and we are absolutely not one bit closer to even breaking ground. 

Difficult to leave the past behind, but the stadium was originally built 97 years ago.

Then there was Inter, whose financial issues for the past two years put the whole project in jeopardy. They could not even pay their players that year, and rumors of a sale of the majority or at least a minority of the club have continued from that point forward. Now Zhang is being sued for €300 million by a Chinese bank in Hong Kong, the club has a whopping €880 million in total debt, including a €415 million bond that has been downgraded to a junk bond. In fact, they are in danger of defaulting and losing the club to Oaktree in much the same way that Yonghong Li defaulted to Elliott Management. How would they help finance a new stadium? Meanwhile, Milan are basically debt free and have cut their losses to a projected €25 million this year, so are in fantastic fiscal shape comparatively.

It should not have been a surprise to anyone, then, that when businessman Cardinale came in, he opted to have Milan go solo on the stadium project. It was not even a surprise to Inter, who had apparently already secretly had an agreement in place for land for a plan B stadium in the Rozzano area. But it was apparently a surprise to poor Mayor Sala. In fact, he seemed surprised, after being told for five years straight that no one wanted the San Siro anymore, that both teams might just actually up and leave the San Siro. Like an abuser whose victim suddenly takes a stand, he realized that his municipality would be left with a giant, empty monolith. And a loss of revenue of €8.5 million per year, which is what Milan and Inter pay the city for the San Siro currently, as well as the costs of maintaining it. How was this news to him?

A map from La Gazzetta dello Sport shows the distance from San Siro and the nearby Metro stations.

Milan have chosen three potential sites for a new stadium, with the favorite being the La Maura former racetrack area, which is only approximately a kilometer away from San Siro and still within the city of Milano. A huge plus to this site is that it is private land, and so would not be subject to all of the public debate and other bureaucratic nonsense surrounding public land such as the San Siro property. There is already excellent public transportation to the area in place, too. 

The biggest issue (besides the human chain and the ecomostro people demonstrating) is that part of the land falls in the jurisdiction of the Parco Agricolo Milano Sud, which does have some guidelines as to what can and cannot be done with that land. The club would have to reach what is known as a "program agreement" with this group in order to proceed. Basically, there are multiple governing authorities that would have to give approval before a decision could be made. Cardinale is spending quality time right now, meeting with necessary leaders to understand exactly what is needed to make this stadium happen, as well as what would make the residents happy.

The irony of Serie A's piracy campaign is that it accurately depicts the stadiums, the real reason calcio is dying.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of the issues when trying to build a stadium in Italy. Even the President of the Lega Serie A, Lorenzo Casini, spoke to the bureaucratic problems facing teams in Italy. And this is the league that has prioritized fighting piracy above building stadia, investing in youth, resolving the problems with racism, or otherwise helping to actually make Serie A competitive financially. So if he is talking about the bureaucracy, there must really be a problem. Juventus are still the only team in Serie A who have built a new stadium in Italy since 1990. That's right, over 30 years. Despite Milano co-hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, and the FIGC putting in a bid to host a future Euro tournament, bureaucracy stands firmly in the way of building a new stadium in Milano. 

Cardinale spoke about his experiences in sport, which include building some world class stadiums in the United States. He also mentioned the lack of facilities currently available in Milano to host Live Nation events, for example. When Milan played Spurs in North London, directors toured Tottenham's state of the art stadium and facilities, and were very impressed and excited by the possibilites. It is so much more than just a stadium, and brings in revenue all year long for the club, not just on matchdays. This was the most important point of Cardinale's interview, that Milan as a club and a brand deserve a world class stadium of their own, with the potential to increase revenue and keep up with clubs in other leagues. 

Cardinale is a man with a plan to bring Milan into this century.

There is a reason that Cardinale is in such a hurry to get a stadium built. He has committed to his investors to make a return on their investment within a certain timeframe. The only way to do that is to get a stadium built. But it is also just good business. Cardinale knows good business, with so many ventures, including a feature film being released soon, "Air" which is all about sports and marketing, and he also recently spoke about. The stadium project is the one goal that Elliott did not accomplish. The business side of the club is healthy and growing, perhaps stronger than it has ever been, so it is time to get the stadium done. 

In order to make the jump on the sporting side, investments will need to be made, that much is clear. But in order to support those investments, there will need to be more guaranteed revenue. The only growing room to sustain such investments is to build our own stadium. However, when the public is already labeling the project an "ecomostro," and Italian bureaucracy still reigns supreme, Cardinale faces a monstrous task of trying to build a stadium in Italy.

This post inspired by the music of The Cure's "To Wish Impossible Thiings"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 28
Napoli vs. Milan
Sunday, April 2, 2023 • 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
This match can be streamed LIVE on Paramount+ in the U.S.

Milan's "Stadio Ecomostro": The Monstrous Task of Trying to Build a Stadium in Italy Milan's "Stadio Ecomostro": The Monstrous Task of Trying to Build a Stadium in Italy Reviewed by Elaine on 1:45 AM Rating: 5
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