Troubled Curitiba World Cup Stadium Struggling to Attract Fans

Curitiba has a new problem after being spared from being removed from the list of venues for soccer’s World Cup: a lack of interest in the games that will be played there.

The southern Brazilian city found out two days ago that it would remain a World Cup site following a threat from soccer governing body FIFA that it would be cut from the list of 12 hosts if it didn’t come up with a plan to complete construction of the 41,500-seat Arena da Baixada in time for the competition.

The city will stage four first-round group games, starting with Iran against Nigeria. That will be followed by Honduras-Ecuador, Australia-Spain and Algeria-Russia. Of the group, only defending champion Spain is considered among the top teams in soccer. The fixture list has hurt demand for games, according to Horst Schmidt, chief executive officer of the 2006 World Cup and a consultant to the 2014 ticketing operation.

“We have to do a lot of work to promote the matches there,” Schmidt said in an interview yesterday in Florianopolis, where coaches from the 32 competing teams have gathered for a two-day workshop. “Perhaps because of the profile of matches the demand isn’t the same as other venues.”

Schmidt said organizers will “focus on this” and may come up with new promotions to generate interest among the local population in Curitiba. He couldn’t guarantee that the stadium would be sold out for games, and dismissed offering discounts.

“In my opinion they are receiving good matches, they have Spain there, and Spain will use Curitiba as its main base,” Ricardo Trade, chief executive officer of the World Cup organizing committee, said in an interview. “I never discussed this with the mayor or the governor in Curitiba. We talk every day.”

One-Third Sold

FIFA says it has sold about one-third of its 3 million World Cup tickets. It doesn’t break down sales by site. Tickets for sale in Curitiba, a city with a population of 1.7 million, range from $90-$175 per game.

Organizers say the Curitiba stadium will be finished on May 15, less than a month before the start of the World Cup. It was supposed to have been ready in November. Work has hit delays and cost overruns, with the latest estimate of 330 million reais being 78 percent more than the original budget.

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