So I don't really know how to say this, but Arena Castelão was actually completed ahead of schedule and came in under budget. It makes me uncomfortable.
Date Completed: 1973; Rebuilt in 2013
Number of Workplace Deaths: One
Most Closely Resembles: Someone's rendering of a spaceship for a blockbuster in 1998.
How corrupt is it?
When the bid for Arena Castelão was awarded, they were told they'd only have 24 months to complete a project that would usually take about 3 years. Compressed timelines aren't exceptional in these sort of projects, but given the event at the end of the tunnel the pressure on construction was enormous. Somehow the team responsible not only finished early, but also came in under budget by almost $50m. It was a goddamn World Cup miracle.
Unsurprisingly Castelão was the only stadium built or refurbished in the run up to the World Cup to nail both those parameters. That's thanks in part to a streamlined consortium of architects and contractors who partnered with the state of Ceará to form a public-private partnership in 2010. Unlike Estádio Mineirão, the relationship between Castelão's builders and the state is an orthodox arrangement: the private side is responsible for designing, building, and maintaining Castelão for eight years in exchange for funding from both Ceará and BNDES, Brazil's nationalized development bank.
The time and money savings shouldn't immunize Castelão from criticism, though. BNDES, which has been behind billions of dollars worth of loans for the World Cup construction, isn't beyond reproach with regards to corruption and that 32 percent of the funds came from state coffers that could have been allocated to more worthy public works shouldn't be ignored.
Castelão is a very American project in that way: most stadiums in this country are publicly funded and privately operated with tax-free bonds being the most common financing vehicle. When a team wants a new stadium, they bitch about outdated facilities to the city, county, and state who often capitulate and float a few hundred million dollars of those bonds to a private contractor through a bidding process.
Now this is where it gets a little muddy: Those private companies are obligated to pay the government back on a given timeline, but since many times those bonds aren't taxed the city or county or state is forfeiting a few decades of future revenue and dealing with the decaying value of currency based on whenever they floated the bond. When people talk about a new venue "costing taxpayers millions" this is what they're talking about—it's bureaucratic and boring and really boring but at least now you learned something.
Corruption Score: 2 out of 5 Blatters
What's the worst thing that happened during construction?
This is where Arena Castelão gets a little uglier: According to Goal, locals say that "street children have been transported elsewhere in the surrounding area," which sounds like something Giuliani would do on his days off. Also, the city's brothels were shut down for the duration of the World Cup which has apparently "[pushed] prostitutes onto the street," a serious issue during an event that has its share of black eyes with regards to sex trafficking.
Any post-World Cup uses?
Sigh, Fortaleza is yet another stadium without teams in the top tier of Brazilian soccer, but apparently the two local clubs, Ceará and Fortaleza, draw some big crowds. Unfortunately Castelão sits 64,000 people which would be difficult for any team to fill, much less a pair of teams sitting at the top of the second and third divisions of the Brasileiro.
Should you go there?
Miss Universe is happening there, so yeah! Its sister city is also Miami which is a hell of a lot more than Belo Horizonte can say.
Brazil Stadium Rank: 8 out of 12
I know I said next to nothing about the design of the stadium itself, but I think there's a generally positive impression of Castelão's contemporary aesthetic. Personally, I don't find it terribly attractive. The newly installed canopy serves a worthy purpose but I find the exposed trussing contrasted with the barren concrete too Martian for a beach town. The nocturnal shots of Castelão glowing internally soften its image for me slightly but, in the end, it's a slightly below average design that deserves plenty of plaudits for coming in on the cheap side.
Previously: Estádio Nacional, Brasília|Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte |Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre |Arena Pernambuco, Recife | Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador | Arena Baixada, Curitiba | Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá | Arena Das Dunas, Natal | Arena Amazonia, Manaus
Photo credit: Getty