By Stephanie Foden, Contributing Reporter
SALVADOR, BRAZIL – While many international travelers may equate Bahia state’s capital city with Carnival, football (soccer) in Salvador – much like the rest of Brazil – is also a prominent part of local culture. With the reopened Fonte Nova Stadium, experiencing a big match should certainly be on the list of things to do while visiting.
Formally named Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, the stadium reopened earlier this year in time for hosting part of the FIFA Confederations Cup. It was rebuilt to serve as one of the twelve venues hosting the 2014 World Cup, replacing the old Estádio Fonte Nova.
The arena, which was designed to resemble the old one, gets plenty of use beyond the international FIFA tournament, with regular national league action.
Fonte Nova serves as home to Esporte Clube Bahia, and also occasionally used by local side Esporte Clube Vitória, who normally play at Estádio Manoel Barradas, but move to the larger arena for their high-profile matches.
When the stadium was re-inaugurated in April, it hosted a clássico (derby) between Bahia and Vitória, one of the biggest rivalries in the country.
For Ericson Benício and many other locals, the stadium, which originally opened in 1951, is where they developed their adoration for football. “I have a lot of respect and admiration for Fonte Nova. This is the place where I watched Bahia play for the first time. This was the place where I fell in love with the team. It was fantastic to watch. The players were big stars for me and Bahia was invincible in Fonte Nova.” he told The Rio Times.
The city landmark is located on the eastern edge of the historic center, overlooking Tororó lake and can easily be reached by walking from most central locations. Those coming from further distances will have to rely on the city’s underdeveloped bus lines, which fortunately will be upgraded for the World Cup.
With capacity for 50,000 people, a number that will grow to 55,000 for the World Cup, the arena offers ten levels and three rings bleachers (lower, middle and upper). There are seventy private boxes, about 2,500 parking spaces, forty food stands, ten elevators, 94 toilets, shops, cultural center and panoramic restaurants overlooking Tororó lake.
“The stadium seems to be easily accessible and well organized regarding the signaling of the entrances and exits,” opined local football fan Fiama Delmondes.
“I watched the [Confederations Cup] Brazil and Italy game there and everything went fine, despite it being an important match. It felt very comfortable, even though the prices for food were absurdly high.”
Tickets for Bahia matches can be bought online via Futebolcard, at the stadium’s ticket kiosks or TicketMix at Salvador Shopping, Iguatemi and Paralela Shopping malls. Ticket prices start at around R$70 for most sections of the stadium and go up to R$165 for premium seats.