Virginia Raggi postponed the big reveal until this Tuesday morning, local Rome time, but immediately broke the silence around Campidoglio: “I’ll tell you all straight away, we’re going ahead with the stadium. [The club], if they want, can open up their construction sites by the end of the year.”
Raggi firmly put the hammer in A.S. Roma’s hands to keep the ball moving today. But what of the independent report that called the new stadium a “catastrophe” in waiting?
The Mayor’s office had no choice but to hunt for a positive headline this year. Just about everything else in Rome had the locals ready to oust Raggi from power by the next election. The biggest shot in the arm to the city’s economy - the Stadio della Roma - would do nicely to turn the tide, so the Mayor’s office spent the whole of January throwing every assurance possible at the report to turn it in favour of the stadium.
Torino’s professor Bruno Chiara - the man in charge of the independent report on the stadium’s viability - maintained there are problems around the daily traffic in Rome, but both local government and regional authority had taken the maximum allowed January 6th-31st extension to react and work with Torino’s independent opinion in resolving the very problems flagged up.
Not least of all, the Lazio regional authority has already set aside 180 million euros towards developing the Roma-Lido train route that will span nearly 30km and 13 train stops, including a Tor di Valle station that runs right through Roma’s new stadium. This money isn’t exclusively coming about because of the stadium, but it sure helps that public money is committed to redeveloping the area and there’s no turning back.
The onus is now on A.S. Roma’s ownership to reach a final signed agreement with the regional authority’s Urban Convention; this is the last of green lights needed by the club and Pallotta.
“Today was only a step ahead”, said Roma Vice-President Mauro Baldissoni, “and we’re working every day, like the mayor said, to wrap up the final technicalities and get the final go-ahead from the Urban Convention. Just the technical details are left, and we hope to get them done very shortly. We hope this can all get finished in just a few weeks time, meaning as soon as possible.”
“This whole time,” Baldissoni continued, “we were debating a problem that concerns Rome rather than the stadium itself. Everyone was agreed to invest on public transport after seeing what happened with the [Milan] San Siro. They’d opened the purple metro line and that brought them an enormous increase in crowds over the last two years, because it made it simpler and easier to get to their stadium. It’s only right that this happens in Rome too.”
“We had to look at the worst case scenario. We had a project in mind that offers better access to an area of Rome that goes well beyond the ninety minutes of a football match, and guarantees the presence of the club around Rome well into the future.”
The technicalities Baldissoni speaks on may include Pallotta buying the land the stadium is set to be built on, so he can get to laying the first brick in 2019.
Just be glad the drama is over and that - if this year’s Deloitte Football Report is anywhere within the right ballpark - A.S. Roma could grow her commercial revenue as soon as 2020/21 now that everyone is on board for a 2019 start date on building the stadium.
How exactly will the club go about that? Stadium title sponsors? Qatar Airways? Your guess is as good as ours. This is a major piece in hand for Pallotta to be walking straight to the bank, and not to shabby for anyone looking for a new job in Rome either.
The only person who wouldn’t enjoy the news is Lazio owner Claudio Lotito, himself married into a major Italian construction family for decades and now officially beaten to the punch of building a new home for football in Rome by James Pallotta.
The Stadio della Roma aims to generate 1.6 billion for the Rome economy within 6 years of construction. At the end of that 6-7 year period, some will be watching to see if Pallotta stays in Rome, or considers his ultimate goal completed within the Eternal City.