World Cup 2018: how Russia’s stadiums are shaping up (or not)…part two

In part one of this review I looked at the World Cup 2018 stadiums in Moscow, Kaliningrad and Sochi. Things look good in Moscow and on target in Sochi, but Kaliningrad might yet find itself being forced out of the running – along with one of the venues below.

Part two looks at four more cities with mixed progress:

Zenit Arena, St. Petersburg


The picture above was taken in 2012, but you might barely notice the difference if you visited the Zenit Arena now. The Kirov Stadium, previously on this site, was demolished in 2006 ready for the new arena to be completed in 2008. The many delays in building work have incurred the wrath of many, including Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev. Initially a project funded by Gazprom, the city authorities had to step in when the gas giant declined to invest further. Work should be completed by 2016.

Is it really needed?

The stadium will have a capacity of almost 70,000, which matches super-rich Zenit’s ambitions – and a city the size of St. Petersburg (almost five million inhabitants). Currently Zenit play at the 21000 capacity Petrovskiy Stadium, and it can be difficult to get tickets for the bigger league and European matches. The location of the stadium, in a park and on a peninsular sticking out into the Gulf of Finland, promises to make it a landmark.

Levberdon Arena, Rostov-On-Don


A project costing an estimated 15 billion rouble (£250 million), the stadium gets its working name from its location – in Russian ‘Levberdon’ is an acronym meaning ‘left bank of the Don’. One of several stadiums where building work is yet to start, it should be completed by May 2017. During preparatory excavation work, five unexploded and well-preserved shells from World War 2 were discovered and had to be removed.

Is it really needed?

Following the tournament the capacity will be reduced to around 25,000, which seems sensible. The biggest city football club, FC Rostov, is a top-flight regular but does not draw large crowds. Another city stadium is currently being renovated and it too will have a 25,000 capacity on completion. With the city’s second club skirting between the borders of amateur and professional football, two sizeable stadiums are probably not needed.

Victory Stadium, Volgograd


The name of this yet to be started project comes from the huge role Volgograd played in the Second World War. Above is Volgograd’s Central Stadium, which will be demolished to make way for the new arena. Entirely funded from the federal budget, the Victory Stadium is at risk of never seeing the light of day. The project has only just been approved, meaning the current stadium is still standing and won’t have been demolished until the end of 2014.

Is it really needed?

As well as being a city of historic significance, Volgograd has footballing pedigree. In the nineties Rotor regularly challenged Spartak Moscow for the title, and famously beat Manchester United in a UEFA Cup tie. However, the club have since had considerable problems, including being excluded from professional football altogether in 2009. Currently they are in the third tier, have no money for kit and are dining in a local canteen to save money.

Jubilee Stadium, Saransk


The Jubilee Stadium was supposed to be completed in 2012 to celebrate 1000 years of unity between the Mordvins and Russians, but has fallen behind schedule. It should be ready by 2017, and will be used for knockout as well as group games. The stadium’s capacity will be reduced post World Cup from 45,000 to 28,000, and it is hoped many will be attracted to its other sports facilities (volleyball, basketball) and shops.

Is it really needed?

Of all the cities selected to be a host city, Saransk was the biggest surprise. 2012-13 was FC Mordovia Saransk’s first ever season in the top flight, and they were immediately relegated. Now back in the top flight and managed by former Russia coach Yuriy Semin, it is hoped the club will be a steady top-flight presence by 2018. A recent home game against champions CSKA Moscow attracted just 11,000 spectators.

Coming up in part three – read about one complete stadium, some that are far from completion and some that are completed and look sparkling but won’t be hosting any World Cup matches. I’ll try to explain why…

Saul Pope is a Russian/Ukrainian football blogger and contributor to When Saturday Comes magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @saulpope


Picture attributions:

Zenit Arena: “New football stadium construction site in SPB 01” by Florstein – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Levberdon Arena: «Rostov new WC2018 Stadium». С сайта Википедия –

Central Stadium Volgograd: «Central Stadium (Volgograd)» участника Cryonic07 – собственная работа. Под лицензией Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 с сайта Викисклада –

Jubilee Stadium Saransk: «Стадион Юбилейный в Саранске 1». С сайта Википедия –


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