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Zenit Arena opens its doors, cost passes $700m mark

The much-delayed Zenit Arena, a key venue for the 2018 Fifa World Cup and this year’s Confederations Cup, has staged its first event with St. Petersburg’s Deputy Governor, Igor Albin, stating it will now come at a cost of around 43 billion rubles (€679.5m/$729.2m).

The 68,000-capacity stadium (pictured in October) hosted 10,000 locals on Saturday for a free extreme sports show designed to test its security system, logistics and other systems. The project has suffered a number of delays, cost increases, design changes and allegations of mismanagement. Workers first broke ground on the stadium in the western part of Krestovsky Island in 2007.

Temporary infrastructure is expected to be finished by April 1 along with the arena’s adaptation to Fifa requirements, Albin said, according to state news agency Tass. On February 22, the arena will host a concert with a capacity for 35,000 spectators.

The construction project was amended three times in 2008, 2010 and 2013 – with each occasion seeing the price tag rise from the initial estimate of 6.7 billion rubles. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered officials in St. Petersburg and fellow host cities for the World Cup, Kaliningrad and Samara, to speed up stadium development.

The Zenit Arena is the working title for the stadium, which is due to be officially named the St. Petersburg Arena during the two showpiece events of world football’s governing body. Zenit Arena has been lined up for a prominent role at the World Cup, including staging a semi-final, while it has also been pencilled in as one of four venues for the Confederations Cup.

Its main tenant will be Russian Premier League club Zenit St. Petersburg and Albin suggested that it is unlikely to bear the name of a sponsor in the long-term.

“Fifa names stadiums for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup,” Albin said. “This one is called St. Petersburg Arena but in the future St. Petersburg residents will vote for its name. The governor has suggested that a contest be organised for naming this facility.”