Stadio della Roma: Pallotta and Pannes talk stadium, Roma’s future

AS Roma’s president James Pallotta and former board member Mark Pannes were interviewed by Roma Radio. Here are their words:

Tomorrow is a very important day…
Pallotta: “Definitely. We are confident, we have created a very important project for this city and this country. This project will bring Serie A back where it deserves to be.”

What stage is the project currently in? When will we see the foundation stone?
Pallotta: “We want to be rapid with this, but we know there is a lot to do. We have done an exceptional job so far, working with people we have had around for over two years. We have done everything properly for Roma and the city.”

Can you tell us the differences between the United States and Italy for what concerns the approach to a project like this one?
Pallotta: “The whole thing is completely different in the US. As I said two years ago, we started looking for a suitable area. Then we’ve worked with architects, ecologists: you don’t do such things in America. We’ve compiled a detailed project with Mark (Pannes), we’re trying to build a complex for Roma matches, rugby matches, concerts and events that will help Rome becoming one of the most desired destinations in Europe. In the US, the project starts with the construction process itself, but we  understood the problems that came before the start of the construction: we didn’t want to build a stadium without pondering enough on the matter.”

Why Tor di Valle?
Pannes: “I think it’s important to say that we’ve been transparent from the start. The first step was getting in touch with a big real estate company: we had over 90 proposals, then remained with 12 options and we scouted them all together with Roma’s councillors. Eventually, we chose Tor di Valle: we wanted a location where there wasn’t a sport structure, a place that could be renovated with sports and through sports. We think that’s the best solution for Rome, and overall one of the best location in the south of Europe. We have plans to provide transport links through Rome itself and outside of it.”

Pallotta: “We knew that we would have needed a big investment on the transport: private funds for junctions, roads. We’re trying to gather our best from the past experiences we had and to implement everything into this project.”

We’re talking about a huge amount of money, aren’t we?
Pallotta: “The whole project will be the biggest Rome has seen since the ’20s. We’re talking about over €1 billion overall. A hundred just for the transports, on every level: even the airport will be improved. We’ll do our best to guarantee that Rome will become one of the most attractive destinations in Europe. Private fund will take care of the investments.”

Pannes: “A lot of financial companies are working with us. It’s not like that with stadium: usually the city council takes care of the infrastructural issues. The stadium will be accessible through metro, car, even through the Tiber river maybe. This project will allow the area to be experienced on a daily basis and we’re proud of this as we’ll provide thousands of jobs before, through and after the construction process.”

Pallotta: “I’ve been here in the last few days and I’ve heard about possible speculations: this is absolutely not true, what we’re doing is important for the city of Rome itself.”

One of the problems is the ownership of the club.
Pallotta: “This controversy is ridiculous. This problem is a financial issue and concerns any club: at the moment, the club is paying €8 million per year for the stadium. With the new stadium, this fixed costs will go down to €2 million. There’s no logic behind criticizing something like this.”

Pannes:  “If you want to finance a project like this privately, the investors want guarantees. In this case, this means the owner of the stadium is te owner of the club. We understand the concerns, but this is a financial and legal mechanism: we will have a 30-year rent and this will allow us to have more favourable rates. We’re getting an important amount of money on loan, and we’ll need to pay them back.”

How do you feel to be a foreign investor in Italy?
Pallotta: “We’re serious people and our intention is to bring the Serie A to its deserved standards. We can’t do everything on our own. Roma is not a single entity: we’ve learned from others and we hope others will learn from us. This a growth process that will help Serie A to improve. I’m thrilled, and we’re just at the starts. One of the changes can be seen with Roma Radio and Roma TV. We feel this enthusiasm, even in the squad. There’s creativity, we feel confident on this project that will go on for 20-30 years. I won’t give up, unless someone will throw me into the river. Fans are fantastic. There’s a big change happening, and fans understand and appreciate this. They understand our effort: we want to make Roma the greatest club in the world. I’m ambitious, we want to make Roma the best team. None of us will be satisfied untill that goal is reached.”

It looks like you’re becoming a real supporter.
Pallotta: “I’ve always been a fan, if I wasn’t I would not have got involved in the first place. There’s a huge “supporter side”, that you see during matches. I hate losing, I’m a very competitive person. But you have to consider the financial aspect, you need some effort there if you want a strong team. I’m the first fan, it’s difficult to be detached from the fans’ passion. I don’t know if I’ll have the passion of the fans from the Curva Sud, but I can’t see me more emotionally involved that I already am.”

How do you expect the first match in the new stadium?
Pallotta: “I hope the fans will be enthusiast of the experience. It will be a fantastic day for them. I can’t wait for the first match there, standing in the stadium and watching the people moving inside. The opposition’s player that will see the stadium as opponents…I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes. It will be the most difficult stadium for our opponents. Than we other concerns, such as hospitality: I want to have the best stadium around.”

Pannes: “This structure is built by Romans. Concrete, steel: the Romans will build all this. We are lucky to kick-start this project in one of the greatest cities in the world. Tomorrow everything will be fine, the councillors will give the green light.”

Mr. Pallotta, you can say anything you want to the fans.
Pallotta: “I just want to thank the fans for the support and the warm welcome. They’re understanding what this project is about: a project for Rome. A feel part of Rome, and I want you to know that we are very, very serious people. I’m a transition figure, a small part of the history of Roma: we’re grateful to be in the greatest city of the world and what I consider the greatest team in the world. We’re confident we’ll do the best for the club and the city. Forza Roma!”

Pannes: “Curva Sud has a great maturity and vision for the future. They proved they are involved in all this and I think we’ve had a great start with Fiorentina. Forza Roma!”