Nervi’s Stadio Franchi–saved for the moment!

Last Friday the Italian Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali issued its binding opinion preventing plans to demolish–even partly–Nervi’s iconic stadium in Florence. As reported by Artribune, the ruling allows consideration of new roofs and new end zone stands (“curva“) but prevents the city and Fiorentina from pursuing their original plans to demolish the 1931/32 stadium and build anew on the same site. The ruling has, predictably, drawn protest from the team’s owner, Italian-American billionaire and CEO of Mediacom Rocco Commisso, but Fiorentina hasn’t been able to explain why, for instance, a new stadium adjacent to the historic Nervi structure wouldn’t serve the same purpose.

Monday, Florence Mayor Dario Nardella held a press conference during which he announced that the city would fully comply with the MiBACT directive, and would take the suggestion made by the Pier Luigi Project Foundation that the entire Campo di Marte be considered as a revitalization project, perhaps involving a new stadium and new development that could help fund the renovation work that the Franchi would need to begin a new life as a community center, like Nervi’s Stadio Flaminio is slated to become in Rome. More encouraging, he announced that the city would, in fact, hold an international competition to re-imagine the Campo di Marte, with precisely the aims of rejuvenating the stadium and improving access to the city’s second main rail station, adjacent to the site.

Commisso has threatened to take the team to the suburbs, and this has caused plenty of concern and backlash from the Viola. But Florence should take a lesson from the American experience of the last several decades, as professional sports teams have taken municipalities to the cleaners with threats of pulling up their cleats and leaving for better financial deals offered by cities or suburbs seeking the publicity that comes with today’s media-saturated sports culture. Those deals have never–literally never–worked out as planned for those cities, who consistently fail to see the income promised by the teams, and who–after a few years–find themselves the owners of a stadium criticized by the owners as out-of-date and facing threats from those owners to move to the next town.

Fingers crossed that this goes ahead, and that Florence has, by 2025, a new precinct worthy of a visit by sports fans and, perhaps, even by tourists who alight at that station before the one in town…

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who joined the campaign to Save the Franchi…