Rio World Cup Soccer Venue Operator Expects Losses Through 2015

The company that last year won the concession to operate Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium is unlikely to break even until 2016, a senior executive said.

Denio Cidreira, director of entertainment properties for Odebrecht SA, said revenue in 2013 was “frustrating” and though 2014 would be better, he expected further losses.

Odebrecht spokesman Daelcio Freitas said the loss in 2013 was about 48 million reais ($21.6 million).

“We have a loss, but in our plan we expected to have a loss,” Cidreira said yesterday in an interview in Sao Paulo, where he was attending a sports management summit at the University of Navarra’s IESE Business School. “In about two more years we will break even.”

The Maracana, one of the best known stadiums in sports, will host the July 13 final of soccer’s World Cup. Owned by the state of Rio, it was closed for three years while undergoing a $500 million renovation before reopening last May.

The stadium is one of 12 that Brazil is spending 8 billion reais on to stage the World Cup, which kicks off June 12. The Maracana will host seven games.

Originally built for the 1950 World Cup, the Maracana is home to Brazil’s most popular soccer team, Flamengo. The stadium seats about 78,000 fans and includes sky boxes and hospitality areas typical of soccer stadiums in Europe.

Odebrecht, Brazil’s biggest construction firm, is the majority partner of the operating group, known as Consorcio Maracana SA, and also includes Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., which runs the Staples Center in Los Angeles and London’s O2 arena. The group last year agreed to pay

5.5 million reais per year in rent and promised to invest a further 594 million reais on the complex.

Increasing Revenue

Cidreira said he expects to raise revenue through better hospitality and premium seating sales, and by increasing the number of visitors touring the stadium.

The Maracana is the spiritual home of soccer in Brazil and the venue where it lost the final game of the 1950 World Cup to Uruguay. That defeat is still considered a national tragedy in a country that has won six World Cups, more than any other nation.

Odebrecht also operates new stadiums in Salvador and Recife, two other World Cup host cities in Brazil. Cidreira said the recently built venues are helping to bring new audiences to stadiums and reverse a trend of poor match attendance.

Stadium Violence

Fans have been preferring to watch at home or in bars, in part due to several incidents of violence that marred last year’s league championship. A game between Atletico Paranaense and Vasco da Gama in December had to be stopped to allow a helicopter to land on the field and airlift a fan who was beaten unconscious by rival supporters.

Cidreira said there wasn’t any violence at the new stadiums last season and more women and children are now attending games.

“We made a survey at one game and about 40 percent of the supporters were women -- that’s amazing,” he said.

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