Zenit Arena


International design competition from 2006 was attended by top architects, of whom most had Russian cooperates. Perhaps surprisingly Japanese office of visionary Kisho Kurokawa won with their UFO-resembling concept. His work was due to replace the outdated Kirov Stadium dating decades back.

Along with set criteria the ground was to hold 62,000 seats and have retractable roof over the pitch to allow gameplay in extreme northern winters of St Petersburg.

Unfortunately, as time went by it started turning out that the initial vision isn’t possible to be built, at least not with Russians taking over the design after deceased Kurokawa. Planned overhanging external bowl required additional supports, spoiling the initial idea. Retractable fabric roof proved impossible to operate in the extremely cold winters and had to be replaced by different glass structure. Plus constant changes in documentation of the project resulted in contractors building along outdated plans and having to demolish parts of the structure. This chaos lasted over 6 years and resulted in massive delays and cost inflation.

Further amendments had to be done when Russia decided to apply and eventually won the bid for 2018 World Cup. In order for St Petersburg to host semifinal games capacity had to rise by another 7,000 seats.

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