The old Bentegodi
The first Bentegodi stadium was constructed in the city centre in 1910. Named after Marcantonio Bentegodi, one of the city's pioneers of organised sport, it hosted various city clubs throughout the first half of the 20th century.
In 1957, the old stadium staged the city's first ever Serie A match, as Hellas Verona competed for the first time in the Italian top flight. In 1963, the stadium moved to its current site, just outside the city centre, a short distance from the railway station.
The Bentegodi had a major facelift for the 1990 World Cup, when it hosted various group matches, as well as Spain against Yugoslavia in the last 16, but has really undergone any significant modernisation since then.
The current situation
Despite some essential maintenance work in recent years, the Bentegodi, like many Italian stadiums of its era, is barely fit for purpose. On match day, large sections often lie empty leaving ugly voids of concrete and plastic. It's a dirty, dated and gloomy old relic from a bygone era.
But, despite its flaws, it still has it moments. Few here crave the clean, clinical and corporate experience on offer elsewhere. And when it's full, like the remarkable play-off final last June against Cittadella, the atmosphere is simply incredible. But as the stadium becomes increasingly dilapidated, the status quo no longer seems tenable. If Hellas Verona are to thrive in Serie A, we must have a modern, fit for purpose, revenue generating stadium.
A new Bentegodi?
This week, the newspapers in Verona returned to the controversial plans currently under consideration for the redevelopment of the Bentegodi. The plans call for the complete demolition of the existing stadium, to be replaced with a state of the art facility complete with hotel, theatre and office space. Details also emerged this week of a proposed museum dedicated to the Italian contribution to humanity, including to the world of fashion, art and design.
A figure of between €100 and €500 million has been touted, with funding coming from a mixture of private investment and long term loans. Bold assurances have been given that the new stadium can be delivered on budget and on schedule and at no cost to the public purse.
The new development would be managed by Legends, a joint venture established in 2008 by Yankee Global Enterprises and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys. The American company currently operates the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Texas, and the new Yankee Stadium in New York.
If all of this sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Stadium developments in Italy are notoriously problematic, as the vexed deliberations in Milan and Rome clearly demonstrate.
But the current plans appear credible (at least on paper). The situation in Verona is less complex than in Milan or Rome. Sure, there are still some major obstacles to overcome, but miracles do happen. Sometimes even here in Verona!