If you go to Arena Fonte Nova, eat as much Acarajé possible. That is my only advice.
Date Completed: 2013
Number of Workplace Deaths: None
Most Closely Resembles: The Denver Airport without the demon horse or Illuminati conferences.
I wish Arena Fonte Nova had been built just a tad farther south so that its steps reached the Dique de Tororó in central Salvador, making it possible to have grand entrances for the home team via strings of pontoon boats. I assume I am not the only one with these illusions of aquatic grandeur, but I digress.
Arena Fonte Nova is the successor to Estádio Fonte Nova, a pragmatic and small-b brutal piece of architecture that, because of its slowly sloping concrete bleachers, looks more like a bullfighting ring or the first of draft of Cal's Memorial Stadium than a top-flight soccer pitch. The original Fonte Nova was demolished in 2007 following the collapse of one its upper terraces that killed seven spectators. Arena Fonte Nova broke ground in 2010 and was finished in time to host the Confederations Cup in 2013, a comparatively smooth constr—wait, the fucking roof caved in because of rain? That's terrifying, and not in the hilarious way that the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of a million snowstorms in the frozen wasteland of Minnesota. I would probably be looking over my shoulder every few minutes in case I need to shove a few people out of the way to avoid death by giant parachute.
Outside of that, Arena Fonte Nova is one of the few examples of municipal competence in Brazil during the buildup to the World Cup. Its $270 million price tag isn't modest, but it also doesn't carry the same brand of sticker shock of other venues. And because it was used for the Confederations Cup, there was no anxiety about completing the arena in time for Holland's evisceration of Spain.
Unfortunately, like many other regional development projects promised during the initial bid package, Salvador is still missing large sections of a new metro system that was supposed to be completed ahead of the World Cup, though they did cut the ribbon for the stadium's station on the day the whole shindig kicked off. Salvador also saw the entire police force go on strike in April of this year, leading to a 48-hour free-for-all that saw 39 people murdered. It's slightly better than the 130 people murdered during a 12-day strike in 2012, I guess. What I'm saying here is: Make sure the police force is scheduled to be at work when you get there.
Corruption Score: 2 out of 5 Blatters
The ceiling caving in, which, all things considered, is a pretty great "worst thing" because no one died or anything. I've also heard it's pretty neat to explore the tunnels that keep those inflatable lungs inflated.
But there's also a BEST thing that happened: Traditional food vendors who have served up Acarajé—a black-eyed pea fritter stuffed with shrimp and topped with a spicy cashew paste and holy shit I'm hungry now—at Fonte Nova's dual incarnations for the last half century challenged their FIFA-imposed banishment and emerged victorious, much to the delight of anyone with taste buds. Sepp Blatter's desire for mild cheeses and mediocre chocolate loses again.
And now we've reached the point where these stadiums actually provide a home pitch for a team, Bahia, that can put asses in the seats. No more jokes about trade shows or prisons or rodeos or "cultural events," which I can only assume mean giant Carnivale bacchanals since Salvador is apparently the New Orleans of Brazil which, I mean, consider that for a second if you will. I know, I need a cold shower too.
Even when the police decide to go to work, Salvador isn't the safest place in Brazil, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't steel yourself against the night and head to this coastal wonderland. It's the home of Carnivale! It's a city that is designed to withstand maximum party time! That has to mean something in this crazy world.
A lot of points for it being on a lake, a lot of demerits for increased possibility of being shanked.
Photo Credit: Getty