RPL Stadiums: VTB Arena

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On 26 May 2019, Dynamo Moscow returned to Petrovsky Park to the new VTB Arena stadium, which also bears the name of Lev Yashin, after an 11-year break.

The largest stadium in the USSR before the Luzhniki

Petrovsky Park appeared in Moscow in the 1820s, and a hundred years later, members of the Dynamo society, founded in 1923, chose this place to build their own stadium. Dynamo’s stadium was built for the all-Union games in 1928. It could hold 25,000 people and consisted of three stands (North, West, and South).

During the reconstruction of 1934-1936, Dynamo added a fourth stand (East), and the capacity increased to 55,000 spectators – the arena was the largest in the USSR before the opening of the Luzhniki stadium in 1956. Before the 1980 Olympic games, Dynamo reconstructed the stands and stadium facilities, and installed lighting masts. 

In the late 1990s, the capacity was reduced to 36,000 people after the benches were replaced with plastic seats, and a monument to Lev Yashin was erected in front of the entrance to the arena. In the RPL, home matches were played here not only by the Blue and Whites, but also by CSKA, and sometimes even Spartak.

In October 2007, the Moscow government adopted a resolution on the new reconstruction of Dynamo. On 22 November 2008, Dynamo played their last match at Petrovsky Park and beat Tom Tomsk 2-0 thanks to a double by Alexander Kerzhakov. The stadium was almost completely demolished except for the West Stand. In its place by the end of 2018, a single complex consisting of a shopping center and two sports arenas appeared. The Arkady Chernyshov VTB Arena, designed for 10,495 spectators, hosted the first Dynamo Moscow ice hockey match in the KHL in January 2019, and the 25,716-capacity Lev Yashin Central Dynamo Stadium received permission to host RPL games in the May.

Reminiscent of a Faberge egg

The VTB Arena Park project was designed by architects Mikhail Posokhin and Erik van Egeraat. "There are three key elements in our project," the Dutchman told the BBC Russian service in early 2011. "Firstly, we decided not to touch Petrovsky Park and not to do anything outside the existing stadium, secondly, not to touch its historical facade, and thirdly, to combine the football and hockey arenas on the territory of the old stadium. This, along with the possibility of creating a variety of commercial and entertainment areas, was the key to the final success of the project."

Van Egeraat liked the historical facade of Dynamo’s stadium, and he planned to "build on top of the previous walls". However, the stands were eventually demolished due to the state of disrepair - only the West one remained, which was restored in accordance with the original appearance.

The stadium in Petrovsky Park could have hosted some of Msocow’s matches at the 2018 World Cup together with the Luzhniki, but in 2012 FIFA chose the Otkritie Arena. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko explained this decision by the fact that Spartak’s stadium had already been awarded games for the 2017 Confederations Cup, and its construction was faster than that of Dynamo’s.

"We had to redesign the project,”  the former VTB Arena Park project director Kyrill Makariev told Sports.ru. “That set us back about a year. After this news, our team recovered for about a week, making new plans and schedules. Imagine that you have to forget a lot of work and start all over again. But we managed to save about 100 million euros: we reduced the height and number of seats [the original capacity was 45 thousand spectators - Premierliga.ru], removed the underground parking level and the retail floor."

The project also involved American architect David Manica, whose company designed, for example, the stadium of NFL team the Las Vegas Raiders and the arena in San Francisco where the NBA’s Golden State Warriors play home games. In May 2018, the American told ELLE Decoration that the Faberge egg inspired him to create the facade of VTB Arena: "Of course, you will not find direct allusions to Faberge here, but the organic streamlined forms, the ‘grid’ on the facade, the rounded shape of the roof; all this somehow reminds us of the original idea. You could say it ‘hatched’ from an egg."

Most Memorable RPL Match: Dynamo 3-3 Arsenal (26 May 2019)

Both teams had people who participated in the last match at the old Dynamo arena and the first one at the VTB Arena. Anton Shunin was a substitute in 2008, and came out with the captain's armband in 2019. Kirill Kombarov played the first match for the White and Blues, but in the second against them for Arsenal. Over the years, Dmitry Khokhlov went from captain to head coach of Dynamo, and Igor Semshov from captain of Dynamo to assistant manager with Arsenal.

This meeting in the last round was largely a dead rubber, but almost drew a full house with 23,340 spectators. Before the game, Dynamo fans were presented with a new anthem of the club, which was performed by rock musician Nikolai Arutyunov, and when the teams took to the pitch, the entire stadium was painted in blue and white.

In just the 63rd second, the first goal in the history of VTB Arena was scored by Dynamo’s Portuguese winger Miguel Cardoso. The hosts led three times during the match, but the visitors from Tula came back each time. Kirill Panchenko scored a double for the hosts, while Gia Grigalava, Reziuan Mirzov and Igor Gorbatenko scored goals for Arsenal, the latter equalizing in the 84th minute.

Most memorable Match: Zenit 2-3 Lokomotiv Moscow, Russian Super Cup (6 July 2019)

The 2019/20 season also opened at VTB Arena: the Russian Super Cup saw RPL champions Zenit St. Petersburg take on Russian Cup winners Lokomotiv Moscow. The Railwaymen took the lead after a quick goal by Fyodor Smolov, who played at the old Dynamo when he was 17 years old. Zenit responded with two goals from Sardar Azmoun as the Iranian scored before the break and at the beginning of the second half.

Lokomotiv also had a player with a double. Aleksey Miranchuk scored twice in three minutes to help his club to their third Super Cup win. All of those wins for the Red-Greens came under the guidance of Yuriy Semin. The stadium in Petrovsky Park brings fond memories for the coach: in November 2002, his Lokomotiv side won the title-deciding match against CSKA at Dynamo’s ground and became the champion of Russia for the first time.

"Our stadium is unique, it is the only one”

"We have been waiting for its opening for a long time – we finally played a game here!” Dmitry Khokhlov rejoiced in an interview with VTB-Russia after the game with Arsenal. “It’s a great arena: modern, with all the necessary infrastructure. A new stage in the life of Dynamo is beginning. We will create a new history of the club together with the fans. I hope that the stadium will become a home for all Dynamo players for many, many years to come. If we play spectacular football here, I am sure it will fill up."

Anton Shunin made his RPL debut in April 2007 at the Dynamo Stadium, but the new arena also impressed him. "We have a unique stadium, there’s no other like it. There is a shopping center and a hockey arena," the keeper said on Match TV. “Being a Dynamo player is cool; we have the most beautiful stadium. We have had different times, but we always strive forward and I am sure that one day we will return to European competition."

The football stadium was named after Lev Yashin in July 2015. The player’s widow Valentina Yashina visited the arena for the first time on February 29, when the White and Blues faced Spartak. "I am very happy that the new Dynamo stadium has been revived like a phoenix," Yashina said. “I like it, thank you very much to the builders and architects. It is a pity that there are no running tracks. Now it is not fashionable to build with them, although a lot of records were set on these tracks. I hope that at this new stadium, Dynamo will be positive and continue to defend the honor of the club."

This text uses quotes from the websites of the BBC Russian service, RIA Novosti, Sports.ru, ELLE Decoration, VTB-Russia and Match TV.

Photo: FC Dynamo


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