India may not be among the top football playing nations in the world but it houses one of the largest football playing stadiums in the world — the Salt Lake Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 1.12 lakh or more. But this is soon going to be a thing of the past as post renovation, which the stadium is set to undergo ahead of under-17 FIFA World Cup 2017, the capacity is going to be reduced.
The renovation would drastically reduce the seating capacity in the stadium from 1.12 lakh to just about 80,000—a dip of about 29%. With the number of seats going down in the Salt Lake stadium, the Estadio Azteca stadium in Mexico City will become the largest and Salt Lake stadium will slide way below the 10th position.
“We are planning to introduce 80,000 bucket seats at the Salt Lake stadium. These seats will be more comfortable and will make the stadium more pleasing to the eye. The renovation is undertaken to bring the stadium at par with international-level stadia,” Jyotish man Chatterjee, CEO of Salt Lake stadium, said. Right now the stadium has approximately 9,000 bucket seats in the VIP, VVIP and media enclosures. The 80,000 bucket seats will cost the state government around Rs. 5 crore.
A rise in seating capacity is often inversely proportional to the spectator comfort. On July 13, 1997, during an East Bengal Mohun Bagan match, about 1.31 lakh spectators were crammed into the Salt Lake stadium with people climbing over each other in the stands to get a glimpse of the match.
A stadium’s capacity can rise or fall depending on how the organisers allow the spectators in the stadium. In a stadium in Germany, spectators can stand during Bundesliga matches, but during Champion’s League matches, no one’s allowed to stand. Inevitably, the accommodation goes down on European nights.
Introduction of bucket seats increases spectator comfort as it defines the area where a viewer would seat.
Sources in the state sports department said that Kolkata is likely to host four matches of the FIFA tournament, including the inaugural and the final matches. “Our job is to make Salt Lake stadium the best venue during the FIFA World Cup. We will keep no stones unturned to reach the goal,” said sports minister Madan Mitra.
Earlier, Eden Gardens with a capacity of about 90,000 was one of the largest cricket stadiums in the world. But, after renovation, it can accommodate about 65,000 spectators.
The Mayday Stadium in North Korea is the largest stadium in the world where an international match has taken place. However, this is not a football stadium alone and is used for national parades and other cultural programmes.