The closing of a tribune in The Bombonera returned to focus on a topic that has been debated for more than 50 years in the universe of Club Atlético Boca Juniors: the enlargement of a stadium that -with an approximate capacity of 54,000 people- was too small for the club that currently has the largest number of associates in the country, 315,879, according to the “2022 Club Report” of the Argentine Football Association (AFA).
On Saturday, February 4, prosecutor Celsa Ramírez -of the Mass Events Prosecutor’s Office, of the City Public Prosecutor’s Office- ordered the closure of the upper south stand due to “potential security risks” and “building deficiencies” (it was lifted this Sunday the 19th). Beyond the impact among the fans, because it affects almost 5,000 associated people, the closure revived the debate on the expansion of the stadium and its impact as an urban phenomenon.
A debate that, among many other edges, involves neighbors as protagonists. Because beyond the project -currently two that are known as possible- there are houses and homes that are located in two apples, adjacent to the stadium, and on which progress needs to be made if the intention is to make the expansion a reality.
The project promoted by the club is called “Bonbonniere 360”. To achieve this, you must advance on the two blocks. Which it involves Acquire 136 functional units (homes and shops). These units have a very different ownership: for example, there are 25 with sole owners, but also there is an owner who owns 15 units (data from the last survey carried out by the club in 2016).
But even before acquiring these properties, Boca must go through the Buenos Aires Legislature to request the rezoning, because currently a residential use is allowed that must change and contemplate the uses of a stadium. As a sports institution, you cannot enter the project as peryou must do it through a legislator or legislator, among other possible options.
Club sources explained to Clarion who are currently working on the text of the project, that will be presented when the legislative agenda is resumed: “It is a long road, but it is the initial kick. Without the rezoning of these blocks we cannot move forward with the project. And in parallel, we continue with the conversations with the families neighboring the stadium.”
They understand that the financing of the entire venture is assured and sustainable; due to the club’s own resources, due to the members’ interest in contributing money to the works (acquiring boxes or stalls in the future, for example) and possible sponsorship. And they assured this medium that there are no intentions to request an expropriation of the properties.
In the City, Law 238 regulates expropriations. And determine that there must be a “public interest” that endorses the expropriation of an asset or a set of assets. It also regulates the legislative process: the bill must be double reading, with public audience. And it specifies that a private party can act as an expropriator, “with express prior legislative authorization.”
With expropriation request or not, the composition of the current Buenos Aires Legislature could be a setback in the club’s ambitions. Today the ruling party of Buenos Aires (Vamos Juntos) is the majority, and in many sessions they add votes from allied blocs such as UCR/Evolución.
But beyond the club’s projects, the neighborhood look is unavoidable. “I have no intention of moving. I have lived in front of the field for 30 years and I accepted the conditions from the moment I moved in. I don’t complain about the interference or the problems that living in front of a court brings with it,” she told Clarion Manuel Gonzalez.
However, he would be willing to sell his house: “As long as they pay me what it’s worth and a plus, as a kind of compensation because if it weren’t for the needs of the club I still choose to live here”, he concluded. “Here” is exactly in front of the field, in Del Valle Iberlucea at 700. Less than 15 meters separate the façade of his house from that of the stadium.
On Wednesday of last week, with the heat still embracing the City, Manuel returned from the supermarket with his little shopping bag loaded. At this time of day, when there are no games or events, the neighborhood, its sidewalks and its streets, they are neighboring territory. Immediately other residents joined the conversation: in general, they are not interested in moving. “Boca is like the country, no matter who rules, there are always announcements and promises. The theme of the stadium is eternal and every two by three, it sounds again, “added Estela. “I’m already big and I don’t feel like moving. But I have no doubts that it will happen and I hope I won’t be there for that moment. My sons, my daughters-in-law and my grandchildren will take care of it,” she concluded.
As Estela says, already in the 1960s, President Alberto J. Armando promised the construction of a stadium in what was the Ciudad Deportiva de La Boca, in Costanera Sur. Closer in time, and just to make a brief account, Mauricio Macri (president of the club between 1995 and 2007) went from promoting the construction of a new one to carrying out expansion works; he even encouraged the possibility of River and Boca sharing one, “as Milan and Inter do,” he said.
Daniel Angelici (2011-2019) also promoted the construction of a new one, however he was studying the possibility of expanding the current one; he concluded that it could not be done because it was very difficult to agree with the neighbors. Finally, Jorge Ameal (current president) promised to send the rezoning project to the Legislature at the beginning of his term, a decision that took three years. And the project was reactivated now, in a election year in Boca.
The architect Carlos Sallaberry -of vast professional, academic and cultural performance- added his reflection and perspective on the environment: “Beyond the externalities and the impact that the stadium generates on the urban fabric -which exist and are undeniable-, it is necessary find innovative solutions from architecture, basically because I believe that the stadium should stay in your neighborhood. A neighborhood that accompanies it, providing color and passion, and that is enhanced with economic and tourist activities,” he said.
A fan of San Lorenzo, Sallaberry intervened in the stadium on several occasions: expanding and improving the box area, in the youth soccer facilities and in the administrative and press area. He also made two expansion projects for the Bombonera: the “Siglo XXI”, which rotates around the field and takes two blocks from Iberlucea street, and “Cuarta Bandeja”.
Understand that the solution has to be validated by the Buenos Aires government: “The City has to look for urban solutions also for this complexity that arises in the coexistence of a neighborhood with a stadium. It is necessary to solve how the traffic moves and how the pedestrians do it. Buenos Aires has experience in what is known as “pedestrian priority”, and I believe that this can be replicated in the environments of all the stadiums located in the urban fabric, also in All Boys, Argentinos Juniors or Atlanta. Generate a friendly public space, walkable safely, build underground parking lots where you can. The security and communities that families require to join the party must be provided. The work is joint, “she opined.
Sallaberry left a reflection: “There is a lot and good to do, the worst thing is not to try.”
The urban operation behind the expansion project is definitely complex. And there is a worrying phenomenon, the gentrification. The United Nations Habitat program defines it as a “urban renewal and reconstruction process that is accompanied by a flow of middle- or upper-class people that tends to displace the poorest inhabitants of the intervention areas.”
“No city in the world can ignore, or ignore, the value of stadiums. Today they are products. They stopped being those stages that were used only for matches, every 15 days. Around the Boca stadium there is a permanent movement of people. The ideal objective is for this flow to generate a city in its surroundings: tourism, commercial activity and housing. However, the challenge for urban planning and cities is that the area does not become gentrified,” reflects Pedro Pesci, urban planner and teacher.
To get out of the logic of broken promises and find solutions and progress, Pesci proposes creating some figure that merges public and private interests: “It could be an urban consortium, a corporation like the one that developed Puerto Madero (NdeR: Corporación Antiguo Puerto Madero ), an autonomous entity, an executing unit. In Brazil, a tool called “urban operations in consortium” is being used. In short, an instrument that allows define the direct area, in this case La Bombonera, and the indirect area, the neighborhood. However, to make any decision, the participation and discussion of the majority of the intervening actors”.
the slovenian dream
A project – the one known by the name Esloveno Plus, in honor of one of the professionals who took part in the design and projection of the stadium, the architect Viktor Sulčič – provides for the acquisition of the houses on the first and second line of plots that they look towards Del Valle Iberlucea street. This would make it possible to expand the grandstand and “run” the street, without canceling it.
The best-known voice behind the neighborhood organization is that of Rubén Lopreite, owner of two houses. He is 53 years old and was born in the neighborhood. According to the survey carried out for this project, there would be 67 private homes; 7 shops are included in this number. However, the impact in terms of number of households and people is unknown.
Lopreite understands that “it is required appraise properties and pay a premium to families. because the reality is that the neighbors don’t want to leave, they are families from the neighborhood, from all their lives”said to Clarion. He assures that he has the verbal commitment to sell the 67 owners of the homes and businesses.
Fabián Fiori is a well-known Boca fan, he is an employee of the club and also promotes this project. “When they began to say that the field was obsolete, that its useful life was over, that there was no solution and that the only option was to build a new field, I felt moved, that idea touched my heart and that’s how I decided to promote this project that I consider viable and cheaper than any other,” he explained.
The Ferry Bridge, Caminito, Proa, Quinquela Martín, Augusto pizzeria, the Catalinas Sur neighborhood, Casa Amarilla, La Bombonera. Among the icons of the La Boca neighborhood, you cannot miss the stadium. Because when you talk about it, a butterfly effect is generated, nothing and nobody is left unscathed.