The Estádio Beira-Rio is a beautiful, if not slightly underwhelming, piece of architecture that gives Porto Alegre two modern multi-use pitches in the course of two years. There's a good chance they didn't need both.
Date Completed: 1969; Renovated in 2013
Number of Workplace Deaths: None
Most Closely Resembles: One of those awful chocolate orange things just, you know, really big.
I was going to start this article off by talking about how Estádio Beira-Rio's $150m price tag didn't seem exorbitant considering the significant facelift hype studio architecture put on the original arena. The old Beira-Rio was a product of its era: concrete benches and flat, open sight lines and a noticeable lack of shade that would instantly incinerate any English person. (See also: the original Estádio Fonte Nova in Salvador.) The stadiums built back then were pragmatic single-use spaces. You played a match, you left disappointed or satisfied, you repeated the next Saturday. The improvements made to Estádio Beira-Rio shoved the arena into the 21st century aesthetically and spiritually: there's now an entire deck of corporate suites, a few retail operations, VIP areas, restaurants, and a museum detailing the exploits of Internacional, the Porto Alegre side that calls the stadium home. The old and new Beira-Rio are really two sides of the same coin minted fifty years apart.
So I was going to start off talking about that until I was told that Porto Alegre built another stadium, Arena do Grêmio, in 2012 for $280m. It's the rough equivalent of New York City building a stadium for the Mets and the Yankees in the same year.
You could easily make the argument that erecting and renovating a dozen stadiums in a country that has no shortage of excellent soccer pitches is a colossal waste of resources. International tournaments—and the twin Olympics and World Cup are really the only events in the same strata as far as financial investment is concerns—are pageants first, a chance for a city or country to flex its soft power even if they've been working those muscles for the better part of a century. Brazil's position as World Cup host shouldn't be thought of any differently. Even though the message was inconveniently obfuscated by a glut of protests, accidents, corruption, and, unfairly, cultural criticism, it's clear that the mandarins behind Brazil's World Cup bid were there to say, "Twelve billion dollars? Big fuckin' deal."
Corruption Score: 3 out of 5 Blatters
Originally Estádio Beira-Rio's renovations were going to be paid for by Internaciona. But after FIFA's draconian standards were applied to the original plan, the refurbishment costs rose by nearly $70m. This shifted the onus onto Porto Alegre and the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Internacional is a hell of a club with one of the best nicknames in soccer: Celeiro de Ases, the "Factory of Aces."Superstars like Oscar, Diego Forlán, and Alexadre Pato have called the Beira-Rio home at some point in their career, as well as lesser luminaries like Leandro Damião and Lúcio. Even though they had a rough campaign in 2013—they finished 15th—they occupy the tier right below Serie A titans São Paulo and Santos which means the 50,000 seats in Rio-Beria shouldn't be cold once the World Cup leaves town.
Porto Alegre seems cool, I would go if I was in the area.
Beira-Rio's renovation is not a great piece of architecture, but it's not meant to be anything more than an aesthetic update of an arena that didn't have room for all-inclusive suites and VIP lounges. It's unimaginative but visually effective. It's Gehry by Target.
Photo credit: Getty