How will the main football stadium in Russia change things? We report from the construction site.
While passions over the construction of “Zenit-Arena” are running high in Saint Petersburg, Moscow is steadily reconstructing Luzhniki stadium. But it is hardly a reconstruction; in fact, a new stadium is being constructed. Our correspondent visited the construction site.
The Luzhniki sports complex is a brand for both Moscow and sports-oriented Russia. This is the place where Universiades, Spartakiada games, and championships were held. The Olympic Mishka (Teddy Bear), the emblem of the Olympics in 1980, flew to the sky from this stadium.
In recent times, the stadium held the World Athletics Championship of 2013 and the 2008 Champions League’s final match, between Chelsea and Manchester United. It is not by chance that Luzhniki will become the central stadium for the forthcoming World Cup in 2018. The opening ceremony, one of the semi-finals, the final match and the closing ceremony will take place there.
Built all together
The Luzhniki stadium was built in 1956. The decision to erect a stadium in Moscow for Olympians and young sportsmen to train was adopted by the Russian authorities after the USSR’s national team’s successful display at the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. The Luzhniki peninsula, washed by the Moscow River, was chosen – having a lot of space and being located not far from the Kremlin.
— First there was inundated lowland, a poor village and an old church there, Anastasia Ipatova, the press secretary of the Moscow budget enterprise “The Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena”, told our correspondent. — When the construction started, the lowland was covered with earth, which raised the peninsula farther above sea level, and then we strengthened the foundation with piles.
People from all over the country took part in the construction: student construction brigades, military constructors, and even sportsmen. It took two years to build the stadium. Even for today this would be quite fast, but it was in the 1950s!
For the next 60 years the stadium was the main one in the country. Besides sports competitions, concerts of world-dominating stars have been held there: Madonna, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, etc.
Luzhniki really was the brand name for the USSR and then Russia.
Old but strong
Constructors thought long and hard about what to do with the stadium: knock it down or try to preserve it? Luzhniki had been built to last, and it is still strong, though out of date as far as the interior and technical specifications are concerned.
It was decided to preserve it, though this choice was more complicated technologically and more expensive. Luzhniki’s appearance is known all over the world, and besides which it is the central point of the panoramic view from Vorobyovy Hills, so it was not feasible to build a stadium like Sochi’s “Fisht” here.
At the end of 2013, builders started to take down the old structures and in 2014 they began to build a stadium inside the stadium. The old arena was knocked down to its foundations, with only the façade walls remaining (they were cleaned and restored).
All the rest is actually a newbuild.
During our visit to the object under construction, we paid attention to some serious transformations of space as compared with what it used to be.
The geometry of the interior premises has changed considerably. First of all, FIFA has rigid requirements for the stadiums holding football world championship matches. Secondly, there are special logistical calculations: how groups of spectators, journalists, servicemen and sportsmen should move around the area.
A network of cascade staircases round the stadium have been built to provide for such movement. It is also being done to facilitate the fast movement of spectators from one point to another.
Formerly, simply walking out of the stadium took quite a long time: first, people from one sector left, then from another, etc. Now, according to security requirements, all spectators must leave the stadium in less than 20 minutes, and even in ordinary, non-emergency situations, spectators will leave all sectors simultaneously. The number of main entrances will increase from 13 to 16.
— Besides, locker rooms will be equipped in a modern way: there will be baths with icy water for the sportsmen to relax their muscles, Anastasia Ipatova says proudly.
The stadium used to house 79,000 spectators, and after the reconstruction the number of seats will grow to 81,000. But the most important thing is the improvement in the quality of the view. There was a tribune at the stadium with 10% of the low quality surveillance seats (the upper corner seats).
Constructors have taken down the athletics sector and moved the tribunes closer to the field, having built two high-angle tiers, separated by a zone of glass-sided sky-boxes, where there will be luxury boxes with different services.
Besides this, there will be a zone for people of limited mobility – 300 seats – so that spectators with special needs need not to go up or down: they can go to the tribune immediately from the entrance.
And there is a wide and clear view from any point in the stadium.
Formerly, there was a synthetic pitch in Luzhniki, because in 1997 a roof overhang was made which changed the lighting. Due to very complicated shade, natural grass did not grow on the field. Besides, the stadium is actually located on the bank of the Moscow River: ground waters are strong and the soil is not good.
To create natural grass, builders have created a 1.5 m thick “pie”, including drainage, heating, aeration, watering systems and a system of quality monitoring.
As a result, during heavy rain the field is drained for 15-20 minutes, and in winter the field temperature is maintained at 10—15 degrees centigrade. An aeration system provides an oxygen supply to the grass, and computer monitoring will show the grass’ condition in different parts of the field.
As the tribunes have been moved closer to the field, they are partly under the open sky. The roof overhang was increased by 11 meters, which took 475 tons of metal brought in from Chelyabinsk.
I asked the constructors how the stadium structure will hold the additional load. There is no risk of it breaking down as at first it was planned to make the roof fully closing, so the structure was initially calculated to bear a large weight. The new roof overhang will be more transparent: the old polycarbonate covering has been removed, and now a new one is being installed which is to protect against rain and sun.
When this work is done, a big LED screen will be installed. It will occupy 40,000 square meters outside the full length of the overhang. Game scores, national flags, teams’ emblems, and other technical information will be displayed on the screen. It will also serve to illuminate the building.
Three types of external illumination of the façade wall are planned. The most important is for main events. The second type is designed for events of lesser importance, and the third is night backlighting as for any other building in the center of Moscow.
New tourist attraction
As the constructors told our journal, the project provides a number of reasons for the stadium to be attended even when there are no matches. On the top level there will be a sightseeing platform along the building’s perimeter.
Besides this, there will be a gallery housing a museum of sports where sports prizes will be exhibited. And of course, there will be cafes and other commercial infrastructure.
Visiting the Luzhniki construction site, one understands that after the reconstruction for the World Cup 2018, the renewed Russian stadium can be called another tourist triumph in the capital. The arena will have every chance to rank with such great stadiums as Wembley, Camp Nou and Maracana.
Photos by the author
The promoter of the stadium’s reconstruction is the Moscow Construction Department, the project manager / developer is the “Luzhniki Grand Sports Arena” budget enterprise, and the general contractor is “Mosinzhproect” JSC. The work at Luzhniki is organized around the clock in several shifts. About 2,500-3,000 people are working at the stadium. Basic construction and installation works are to be completed in December, 2016. From January, 2017, start-up and commissioning works will start, and the object will be put in operation at the end of spring. In summer, the stadium will be ready to host its first games.