By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Following a 2010 series detailing the 2014 World Cup host cities in Brazil, it is time again to review the progress in the southern metropolis of Curitiba, the capital of Paraná state. The renovated Arena da Baixada, home of Brasileirão Serie B (lower league) side Atlético-PR, will see international football for the first time in June 2014, as well as a remodeled state-of-the-art stadium.
The old arena has been entirely demolished to make way for a vastly modernized and improved stadium complex. The project is one of the most exciting across the country and, unlike several of the renovation projects, the Arena da Baixada will see an increase in capacity, from 25,152 to 41,375.
Work is approximately halfway complete at the time of writing and should be finished towards the end of 2013, which means the stadium was not considered for use during next year’s Confederations Cup. Modern stands are being built parallel to the field of play, which will also come with a retractable roof.
The Arena da Baixada, like the Arena das Dunas in Natal, will be hosting just four matches during the 2014 World Cup group stages. However the city of Curitiba will certainly be overrun with football (soccer) fever on June 16th, 20th, 23rd and 26th.
Once finished, the Arena da Baixada will be furnished with: 63 CCTV cameras, a pitch with two types of grass (Rye and Tifton 419), a water drainage system, 21 public bathrooms (eleven male and ten female), 68 shops, 86 VIP suites, a barbecue area, a gymnasium, media cabins, a tourist information post, a Wi-Fi zone and 500 spaces for parking.
The stadium shape also follows a different design from the vast majority of Brazilian arenas. Similar to the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, the Arena da Baixada will have a more English look, with four separate stands rather than the usual “bowl” look.
The four terraces will however be connected so that the roof can slide into place if torrential rain strikes. As with the climate in neighboring state Porto Alegre, Curitiba’s more European climate means heavy rain could present a problem during matches.
The building costs are cheap compared to other stadium in Brazil; just R$183 million. Of that some, R$90 million is coming from Atlético-PR, with the remainder coming from the local state government, as has turned into the norm.
The club which will move into the stadium, Atlético-PR, is currently in Brazil’s second tier. They were only relegated last season however, and currently occupy fourth place in the table, one of the promotion places.
As in the Serie “A” 2012 Brasileirão tournament, there are five rounds remaining until the end of the season. Should they regain admission to the top flight of Brazilian football, the Arena da Baixada, with all its newly polished grandeur, would be a worthy stage for first division football.
While the city itself can’t be compared to the likes of Rio or Salvador in terms of tourist draw, Readers Digest had named Curitiba as the “most livable place in Brazil,” and it is well regarded for its public transportation system. Also, a little known fact is that Curitiba served as the capital of Brazil for three days in 1969, during the tumult of Brazil’s military regime.