FIFA would like you to know that Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte is "one of the most historic venues in Brazilian football." Their sister city is Ft. Lauderdale. Trust your instincts.
Date Completed: 1965; Renovated in 2012
Number of Workplace Deaths: None
Most Closely Resembles: Didn't George Jetson make these for a living? Wait, was George Jetson a factory worker?
It seems appropriate that when Brazil kickoff against Germany in today's World Cup semifinal, A Seleção will be playing what many consider the second most important arena in Brazil. Mineirão—home to Atlético Mineiro and last year's Serie A winners Cruzeiro—through a 2012 facelift that cost nearly $300m via a public-private partnership between the state of Minas Gerais and the Minas Arena Group, a conglomerate of domestic construction companies that won the refurbishment bid. This particular PPP is an odd hybrid: the Minas Gerais government will oversee construction and arena operations while MAG will take charge of "modernization" and manages the grounds for 25 years.
Special development relationships like this have been gaining traction in the last couple decades because they're viewed as not carrying the same risks as pure privatization. They're especially popular for infrastructure projects like bridges and highway expansions where a private company can design, bid, build, and operate a section of a wider system in exchange for construction contracts and, in the case of tolled stretches, revenue concessions. Most of the time, those concession contracts are written up like long-term leases: The government owns the hardware but a private company gets a 20- or 30-year rental where they collect associated tariffs. In Mineirão's case, there's a slight inversion of that agreement and it's unclear where and why the entities in question are switching spots.
One other place Belo Horizonte could have used an innovative funding vehicle: its traffic grid. Mineirão sits 6.5 snarled, congested miles from downtown, and by all accounts it's neither simple nor convenient to get to a game with a promised $450m bus rapid transit system only running in a very small section of downtown ahead of the World Cup. According to Goal's Ben Hayward Belo Horizonte's city limits aren't much better: the one way traffic patterns are often unmarked and unorganized causing some kvetching among locals.
Unfortunately the investment imbalance is starting to sound less outrageous than standard and, all things considered, Mineirão's combination of history and novel funding techniques make it an easier pill to swallow. I'll just wait to visit until they finish building the BRT system.
Corruption Score: 2 out of 5 Blatters
This wasn't during construction but less than a week ago part of the highway connecting Mineirão and Belo Horizonte's airport collapsed and crushed a passenger bus and a vehicle, killing 1 and injuring 19. According to Reuters, an angry crowd gathered around the collapse and voiced their concern over corruption and unsafe construction schedules ahead of World Cup matches. The accident and subsequent fury showed that widespread dissatisfaction among Brazilian's is still stewing just below the surface.
Mineirão is home to both Cruzeiro and Atlético Mineiro, two Serie A stalwarts. (Cruzeiro are sitting in first place this year; Mineiro are in 8th.) I assume it will also be burned down if Brazil goes down against Die Mannschaft.
The Worldwide Leader tells me Belo Horizonte has delicious food and a lot of bars which sounds like a good enough reason to go anywhere. But any place that embraces Ft. Lauderdale as its sister city should be treated with caution.
Mineirão's aesthetic is jarring, and I'm still unsure as to whether that's a good or bad thing. It looks mechanical from every angle. I wouldn't be surprised if it started to whir and spin at some point but that probably wouldn't be a great design function. Still, its history is undeniable, whatever happens today notwithstanding.
Photo Credit: Getty