It was always going to take something special to make Atleti fans feel at home after leaving the Vicente Calderón, and the Estadio Metropolitano is exactly that
The Estadio Metropolitano in the north-east of Madrid is set to become the 31st stadium to host a European Cup or UEFA Champions League final, adding its name to an elite list of hallowed arenas. Not bad for a bold new ground that staged its first match just 21 months ago.
As the first UEFA Champions League final venue built this decade, the Metropolitano is – together with Tottenham Hotspur’s recently opened London home – in the vanguard of a new wave of stadiums designed to enhance the spectator experience. This means proximity to the pitch and state-of-the-art acoustics, not to mention cutting-edge connectivity. Indeed, the Metropolitano was the world’s first sporting arena to be illuminated entirely by LED lighting.
Home to Atlético de Madrid, the 67,829-seater venue retains a nod to the past as well. Built on the grounds of an athletics stadium, it incorporates the comb-shaped stand that gave the previous arena its La Peineta moniker. Meanwhile, the Metropolitano name harks back to Atlético’s old ground before the Vicente Calderón, though it was the raucous Calderón that the architects had in mind when tackling their main priority: atmosphere.
“To outdo the emotional link between Atleti supporters and the Vicente Calderón was a definite challenge,” says Antonio Cruz of architectural firm Cruz y Ortiz, recalling Atlético’s home between 1966 and 2017. “Despite the large dimensions involved, I think we achieved an atmosphere that’s intimate, to a certain degree.”
"It's about this badge, about players who give everything; it's about family and togetherness"
Diego Simeone would concur. Even before a ball had been kicked, the Atlético coach hailed the new stadium as “a pressure cooker” – an effect achieved by “moving the spectators as close as possible to the pitch”, according to Cruz. “We were starting with an athletics stadium and there was a process of modifying the stands. The closer you can place spectators to the pitch, the better the atmosphere. To achieve that, the slopes of the stands had to be more vertical.”
The noisy cauldron feel can also be put down to the roof design. Visually, the long, light Teflon panels are fitted together to create a wave effect, but it is the acoustics that really count. “It’s the same system as a drum, meaning it reflects sound more than other materials,” says Cruz, whose firm also designed the Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville, which hosted the 2003 UEFA Cup final.
For Cruz, the roof sets the Metropolitano apart for additional reasons. “Other recently built stadiums have the façade and roof in a single form, whereas these elements are separate at the Metropolitano – a façade of reinforced concrete and a roof of steel cables and a Teflon membrane. We’ve created a roof with a double compression ring and a double traction ring, which is the first of its kind in history.”
The fans present at the UEFA Champions League final may notice the sights and sounds more than the science, but Cruz remains philosophical about his role. “The architect spends a long time checking on the project and seeing it grow,” he says. “Then finally, in just a few hours, you see the stadium fill with people and now it belongs to them.”
Above all, he will feel “very proud” as the Metropolitano hosts the biggest game in club football – a landmark moment in its short life so far. “The number of people who watch this match is so big,” he says. “If they dedicate just 1% of the transmission time to the stadium, that will be the greatest attention that’s ever been paid to one of our buildings.” No less, surely, than it deserves.
Estadio Metropolitano architect Antonio Cruz