If You’re Afraid of Heights yet Going to the planet Cup, Don’t Sit Here

YEKATERINBURG, Russia — Droplets of rain gathered on the dark blue suit jacket of Leonid Rapoport, the sports minister of the Sverdlovsk region, as he stood from the auxiliary seating stands at Tsentralnyi Stadium amid a light drizzle Wednesday afternoon.

“Fans do not care if there is usually a roof or not,” he said in Russian, along with smiled.

World Cup tickets are notoriously hard to come by, yet even people lucky enough to secure seats at a game could find themselves, in some sense, on the outside looking in.

from the run-up to the tournament, architects here were tasked with temporarily increasing the seating capacity of the arena, originally built in 1957, while keeping its historical walls intact. The eventual solution represented a bit of outside-the-bowl thinking: the construction of two additional stands in which protrude through openings on either end of the stadium, uncovered by the roof, like enormous drawers pulled through a cabinet.

The unusual design has evoked a range of reactions well before the opening match. Critics called the idea an eyesore, a slapdash solution bordering on the absurd. Defenders hailed the idea as a paragon of practicality along with preservation along with the sort of sensible, sustainable construction too rarely seen at major international sporting events. Fans along with soccer officials alike, meanwhile, just wanted to know whether the stands might be safe, leaving Rapoport along with others to assuage their fears.

“Of course I saw all the reactions,” said Oleg Gak, the chief architect on the project, who Great-naturedly defended his team’s design in an interview before the tournament. “yet I want to say, when we finish any large project, there are always people who like or dislike the brand new building, especially when you look only at a picture.”

The ridicule bubbled up last fall when photographs of the construction site first began to circulate internationally, inspiring a stream of news articles along with many an incredulous emoji on Twitter. Wide aerial shots of the temporary seats, in particular, made them look like steep stairways ascending to outer space, comically distant through the field. An unsparing headline through the sports website Deadspin, “Look at This particular Big Dumb World Cup Stadium,” seemed to capture the general tenor of responses online.

“We got a lot of emails at the time about how stupid the stadium is usually,” said Michal Karas, the editor in chief of StadiumDB, a website in which covers arena construction worldwide.

yet, in interviews, Karas along with others singled out the stadium for praise amid concerns in which various other World Cup stadiums in Russia might become white elephants after the monthlong competition.

William Craft Brumfield, a historian of Russian architecture at Tulane University, called the redesign “obviously very curious,” yet otherwise commended the local government along with architects for maintaining the spirit of the site, which has been used as a playing field since around 1900.

“They see the idea as sort of a hallowed ground,” Brumfield said of residents here in Yekaterinburg, a historically industrial city from the Ural Mountains region.

The stadium was first opened in 1957, along with its historical facade — adorned with semicolumns, bas-reliefs, sculptures along with stucco details from the Stalinist, neoclassical style — was eventually given protected landmark status, surviving multiple renovations.

Instructed to expand the arena’s capacity to 35,000 while preserving the old lower facade as a base, Gak along with his team at Project Institute Arena, a Moscow-based architecture firm, devised a plan to essentially plop a brand new stadium inside the existing walls along with add stands in which could be removed after the tournament. The stadium, once reduced to 23,000 seats, might be used by the local team, F.C. Ural. The project cost 12.5 billion Rubles, or about $199 million, Rapoport said.

Elizaveta Likhacheva, director of the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture in Moscow, favorably compared This particular hybrid approach of melding brand new into old to “inserting a glass into a podstakannik” — a traditional Russian decorative teacup holder. Though she, too, was lukewarm about the stadium’s aesthetics, she said the negative hubbub around the arena revealed a deeper impulse in some through the West to mock all things Russian.

“the idea’s not about the planet Cup, not about stadiums, not about architecture,” she said. “None of these critics have ever been in Yekaterinburg, along with these critics don’t understand what Russia is usually, exactly.”

Fans using a fear of heights may ultimately beg to differ. The temporary seats perch steeply upon a dense latticework of steel beams. Each auxiliary stand is usually 139 feet tall, along with spectators will be positioned right up to their outer edges. Those on the uppermost rows could feel like they are peering off the roof of a 14-story building.

through there, spectators view the action through a wide rectangular opening from the side of the stadium — with the roof partially obstructing their view of the various other seating areas — like pedestrians catching a game through the sidewalk outside a sports bar.

“If you definitely come to the stadium, up to the temporary stands, then you will see not only a cool view of the pitch, yet also a wonderful view of the city,” Gak laughed.

This particular spring, Alexander Meytin, the security director for the Russian Premier League, admitted to having some concerns about the temporary construction, yet he declared after the first test match two months ago in which the stands passed every test along with, importantly, “did not sway from the wind.”

On Wednesday, Rapoport, the sports minister, was asked if spectators overcome with passion might have reason to worry about jumping up along with down through their seats from the sky.

He smiled. “These stands are made of the famous Urals metal,” he said.