Arena da Baixada is on the less-sucky end of Brazil's list of World Cup stadiums, but that's not to say it doesn't also kind of suck.
Date Completed: 1999/2014
Number of Workplace Deaths: None
Most Closely Resembles: Like if you look at the Pentagon blueprints and said to yourself, "I like it but what it really needs is one less wall."
Oh Baixada. You tried to do everything right, didn't you? You set your eyes on refurbishing a stadium that actually houses a top flight Brazilian team for a paltry $83 million—a good chunk of which the stadium's owners, Atlético Paranaese, planned to pay for out of pocket. Your city, Curitiba, has a bus rapid transit system that's the envy of metropolises from New York to Shanghai and a climate that reminds visitors of cool summers in San Francisco. You were going to be a beacon of financial restraint, a glowing exception amid a field of profligate grifters and scallywags. You were just about to say, "Look at us world! We're what the modern World Cup is all about!"
But then, slowly, the wheels came off. Labor and budget disputes put the construction schedule off-track from the very beginning, and eventually the delays nixed a few proposed improvements like a media center and a fancy retractable roof (which was certainly questionable amid one of Brazil's most temperate climates). Then the budget ballooned, putting the state of Paraná on the hook for an additional $60 million and pushing construction completion dates up against FIFA's bloated wall of expectations.
Listen, Baixada isn't a terribly egregious example of the World Cup's general corruption, but that's sort of the problem. When every construction project has seen delays, graft, safety issues and broken promises, typically disastrous issues become muted in comparison. That Curitiba's laundry list of issues just happened to be dwarfed by the constellation of financial black holes from Manaus to Rio is not some sort of victory, it's just catastrophe in miniature. We shouldn't see cost overruns of $100 million as an achievement, or view the lack of workplace deaths as a testament to safety. (Neither of those things are guarantees in this country to say the least.) Baixada's issues are less about corruption and more about a general need to "Get your shit together."
Corruption Score: 1 out of 5 Blatters
Nothing drastic, just the utterance of a disturbing metaphor. FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said completing Baixada on time for the World Cup "[would] be a difficult birth, but at the end we will have a baby."
Finally, a stadium that's home to a Brazilian Serie A team and doesn't need to host, you know, trade shows to keep the lights on. Baixada didn't end up with the improvements initially promised (like that retractable roof), but the stadium was also built in 1999 and is by all accounts a beloved site in Brazilian soccer, so it's not like visitors are missing out on much.
And Atlético Paranaense, the stadium's usual inhabitant, will be happy to put the revamped venue to use. The club sits mid-table in the current Serie A season.
I have nothing bad to say about Curitiba. From this ESPN-produced propaganda video, I'm convinced that Curitiba might in fact exist as some amalgam of Miami, Paris, and Portland. I've also got a major crush on its public transportation network, which is doing things almost every major transit system has been trying to imitate to varying levels of success.
Allow me to nerd out: Curitiba is placing crowd-sized cylinders at its bus stations that are equipped with turnstiles at the entrances. You pay before you get on the bus, thus avoiding the hold-up because the guy in front of you is searching for change and telling the driver about how "This happens every time." I know it sounds boring, but believe me when I tell you this stuff is important.)
That ranking is probably 80% Curitiba and 20% Baixada based solely on that one ESPN video. And man that fucking bus system. BRT for life.
Photo Credit: Getty