Argentine business mogul, politician and Universidad de Chile president Carlos Heller has big plans for one of Chile’s most popular soccer clubs — a stadium the fans can finally call their own.
Santiago-based Universidad de Chile soccer club has been without a stomping ground for the past 87 years — being forced to play games out of Estadio Nacional or share with Unión Española’s Estadio Santa Laura. This has always been the elephant in the room for loyal supporters who have never truly felt at home when watching games for the best part of a century.
Heller, the 73-year-old former vice-president of Buenos Aires outfit Boca Juniors who recently assumed leadership of “La U’s” administrative body Azul Azul, has promised the new stadium will be up and running by 2017. Some fans may take this pledge with a pinch of salt though, as the nearest the 2011 Copa Sudamericana winners have come to owning their own patch was in 1971. A location was approved in Santiago’s affluent suburbs of Las Condes only to fall through as a result of the infamous military coup two years later.
Costing a total of US$50 million, the development will cover an 84 acre facility and would be located at the intersection of Ruta 68 and Camino Noviciado. A 70 acre park is set to be included in the investment combined with reforestation plans for the Cerro Amapola including sports fields, cycling and trekking routes. Universidad de Chile has also proposed building a country club for the university community.
Local businesses are expected to benefit from the new stadium as the area will experience an influx of supporters every match day — and given that the seating capacity is pencilled in between 30-35,000 spectators the flow should be large.
“We want to integrate the community in the project,” Heller said during a press conference. “We will work as fast as we can to get approvals.”
Azul Azul has been making efforts to get plans for a new stadium off the ground since being established in 2007 but has experienced obstacles in the form of neighborhood resistance across the capital. Some are defiant the land should only be used as a site for the university and not for a soccer stadium.
However local Mayor Johnny Carrasco has championed the plans for building the stadium near Laguna Carén in Pudahuel. As a supporter of Universidad de Chile, Carrasco stated that planning will be carried out with both the community and environment in mind and that the new structure will only improve the area.
“We can’t just build a stadium and then ask permission. I think if we have a good project, we won’t have any opposition to it,” the mayor said during a press conference published by Ferplei. “I support ‘La U’ and will have to work out how the project can benefit the community. If the neighbors are given assurances that they will live in peace then there will be no problems.”