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The biggest abandoned football stadiums in the world

Building a football stadium takes years of planning and investment. The end result of stadium building is an arena that provides joy and entertainment for supporters across the world and can also be a spot for tourism.

However, there are occasions when football stadiums are deserted and left to decay. And it always raises many questions. For example, what are some of the reasons why a massive stadium that still serves its purpose can be abandoned?

The sight of an abandoned stadium is eerie and perplexing how large sporting arenas can be left to become wastelands with no maintenance.

Abandoning a football stadium is complex and can happen due to many reasons including planning and financial disputes, domestic clubs moving to a bigger stadium and even damage caused by war.

So, let’s take a look at the biggest abandoned football stadiums in the world and see the various reasons why they have been disused.

Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium – Capacity 100,000

With a capacity of 100,000, the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium is the biggest abandoned football stadium in the world.

The stadium was built to become the new home of Guangzhou F.C and construction began on 16 April 2020 with the aim to open the ground in December 2022. The construction cost of the stadium was 12 billion yuan (US$1.7 billion).

Construction on the project was progressing quickly, yet in November 2021, the stadium was seized by the Chinese government as they intended to sell the stadium to a different investment group. Due to the financial issues and debts facing the developer group, Evergrande, the project was cancelled in mid-2022.

What’s left now is a half-constructed stadium with seats partially filled and abandoned cranes. There is no concrete news about a potential date for construction to restart, leaving more questions than answers.

It could have been one of the most remarkable sporting arenas in the world. However, with a massive debt of £220 billion hanging over the head of the Evergrande Group and owners of the club, there was no way such a masterpiece arena would have proceeded to full construction.

Evergrande Group has been for many years regarded as the second-biggest property developer in mainland China. However, court documents show that the company has been rendered grossly insolvent because it is unable to pay its local debts as well as those owed to foreign creditors.

 

Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium

Nou Mestalla – Capacity 75,000

After being crowned La Liga champions in 2002 and 2004, Valencia announced ambitious plans to build a new stadium, Nou Mestalla. Plans for the Nou Mestalla were unveiled on 10 November 2006 with an overall construction cost of €350 million.

Construction began in 2007 with the aim to complete the stadium for the beginning of the 2009-10 season. However, Valencia’s financial problems at the time halted the opening of the stadium.

There have been various revisions to the original plan since, including reducing the capacity of the stadium and trying to sell the old Mestalla stadium to a Spanish bank, to provide funds to speed up development plans. None of these plans have come to fruition so far.

In recent years, there have been reports that the Valencia City Council is willing to negotiate with Valencia in a bid to finish the construction of the stadium. The Nou Mestalla has been discussed as a potential host venue for the 2030 World Cup if the stadium is completed in time. It also means the 2023 World Cup could offer a new lease of life to the construction of Nou Mestalla, especially if the Spanish government become part of the it.

CVC Capital Partners signed a deal with La Liga in 2021 to provide extra funding for clubs in the league due to the effects of the COVID pandemic. Investment provided by this deal could help to speed up the process for construction to restart, however it is still unclear.

Stadion Plovdiv – Capacity 55,000

Stadion Plovdiv was built in 1950 and was the home of PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv. The stadium is the largest in Bulgaria and the only two-tiered ground in the country. It was originally designed to be the home of the national team.

This was furthered by a renovation project in the late 1980s and early 1990s, however it was abandoned due to a lack of funding.

As a result, Stadion Plovdiv does not have a UEFA licence and safety certificate, so can’t host professional football matches.

The last notable event held there was a Metallica concert in 1999. Today, junior games take place at the stadium and local citizens use the surrounding running track around the pitch for training.

The pitch and running track are well maintained, yet the roof of the stadium is missing, the stands are overgrown with grass and weeds and the floodlights are defunct.

Local Bulgarian authorities have instead invested in Lokomotiv Plovdiv’s current stadium, Lauta and the Stadion Hristo Botev.

Donbass Arena – Capacity 52,187

The Donbas Arena opened on 29 August 2009, becoming the new home of Shakhtar Donetsk, with construction costing $400 million.

In the Euro 2012 tournament held in Poland and Ukraine, the Donbas Arena was one of the host venues. It was the ground that hosted Spain’s penalty shootout victory over Portugal in the semi-final.

However, Shakhtar Donetsk were forced to move out of the stadium in July 2014 due to damage caused by the war in Donbas that began in 2014.

Damage to the stadium was caused by heavy artillery shelling in August and October 2014, leading to the deterioration of turnstiles and entrances across the stadium.

Due to the wreckage of the stadium caused by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the stadium has been abandoned.

Donbas Arena football stadium is one of the biggest abandoned football stadiums
The Donbas Arena was one of the host venues for UEFA Euro 2012 | Photo by Icon Sport

Stadion Za Lužánkami – Capacity 50,000

The Stadion Za Lužánkami was opened in 1953 and used to be the home of FC Zbrojovka Brno.

The ground is well-known for hosting the highest attendance in the Czech First League on 2 October 1996 when FC Zbrojovka Brno drew 1-1 with Slavia Prague.

However, in 2001, FC Zbrojovka Brno moved to the Městský fotbalový stadion Srbská as the Stadion Za Lužánkami no longer met FIFA and Czech FA criteria.

Plans to upgrade and move back to the stadium were stalled due to financial issues in 2012, which led to the stadium being abandoned.

Petr Švancara, former captain of FC Zbrojovka Brno, wanted to play a final game at the stadium and through a local crowdfunding campaign, the fans and community were able to rebuild the stadium. On 27 June 2015, 35,000 spectators watched two teams largely consisting of former FC Zbrojovka Brno players.

When Švancara first saw the stadium before the rebuild, he said: When we came back for the first time, you could have shot a beautiful horror film there.”

The stadium has now returned to its abandoned state. The ground is overgrown with trees and bushes, and there have been reports of homeless people living in the stands.

Houston Astrodome, USA – 70,000

Houston Astrodome is an abandoned stadium in the United States. At the time of its conception in 1965, the multi-sporting facility was dubbed the 8th wonder of the world. However, that quickly changed when another venue, NRG Stadium opened adjacent to it.  Today, some parts of the Houston Astrodome have been brought down, rendering the magnificent facility unusable.

According to the Houston Fire Department, Houston Astrodome with a capacity of 70,000 was not compliant with the fire code. In 2005, the venue became a temporary shelter for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The stadium has not been used since 2009. Two years later, a quest to have the stadium repurposed was unsuccessful. And while it was added to the US National Register of Historic Places, the Houston, there is a possibility it might be demolished in the future.

Great Strahov Stadium, Czech Republic – 56,000

The fact that the Great Strahive Stadium had a capacity of 56,000 but could hold up to 250,000 fans made it one of the greatest soccer stadiums to visit. Located in Czech's capital Prague, the Great Strahove Stadium has remained abandoned since 2019. By its sheer size, it was regarded as the fourth-largest soccer stadium ever built.

However, things have changed and the 56,000-capacity football stadium now serves as a training ground for Sparta Prague. Recent pictures of the venue posted online show a dilapidated venue, especially from the outside, evoking an apocalyptic feel. And with most football clubs in Europe now modernising their training sites, the prospects of the Great Strahove Stadium getting abandoned altogether are quite high.

From the foregoing, modernisation, financial constraints, debts, war and legal tussles are some of the reasons why some of the best and the biggest stadiums ever built have been abandoned. And while there is hope for Nou Mestalla ahead of the 2030 World Cup, it is noteworthy that there are many alternative venues that are likely to replace it in the coming years, especially if its completion is not fastracked.

Okello Steve

Okello Steve is a seasoned Sports and travel writer with over 10 years of experience in the journalistic enterprise. Steve honed his writing skills from a tender age and went on to study communication at the University and chose to pursue a writing career as an independent journalist crafting engaging content for the web on sports, casino gaming and travel.

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