The Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan at Kolkata, popularly known as the Salt Lake Stadium, is of gigantic proportions. Built in 1984, it had an official capacity of 1,20,000. In the foot ball world, this was the highest capacity of any stadium exclusive to the game. It was also the 2nd largest stadium in the world, all games combined, falling behind the ‘Rungrado May Day Stadium’ (Pyongyang, North Korea). But the higher capacity did not necessarily mean comfort for the spectators. The stadium often had matches with its stands full and sometimes beyond capacity. In fact, one particular match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on July 13, 1997, saw a record 1.31 lakh spectators crammed into the space meant for 1.2 lakh visitors.
With the stadium set to host India’s most important football tournament in history – the FIFA U17 World Cup Final, safety and comfort had to be priotitised. Modernisation was on the cards and the stadium has now been renovated to improve comfort, safety and convenience of the players and the spectators. The concrete galleries on all three tiers of the stadium have been replaced with bucket seats where each person would have a seat, unlike the concrete benches. This has reduced the stadium’s original seating capacity by more than 30 % to 80,000 seats. The player’s areas, the ground, as well as the athletic track, have been completely renovated. Safety and Security have been brought up to international standards according to guidelines of FIFA. The number of gates has been increased and evacuation has been made easier. During the FIFA U17-World Cup matches, the stadium will have a reduced capacity of 66,687, keeping in mind the security concerns and FIFA guidelines.
According to an Indian Express report, the sports minister of Bengal has said that cost of the renovation of Salt Lake Stadium has been about Rs 100 crores and has been completely funded by the West Bengal Government.
Salt Lake Stadium has held some of the most important football matches played on the Indian soil like 1986 FIFA World Cup qualification in 1985, Super-Soccers in 1986, 1989, 1991 and 1994, 3rd South Asian Games in 1987, USSR Festival Cup in 1988, Charminar Challenger Trophy in 1992 and the Jawaharlal Nehru International Gold Cup in 1995. It has also hosted players like Lionel Messi and Oliver Kahn.
The upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup will see the finals of the match being played at Salt Lake Stadium on 28 October 2017 and will be a feather in its cap.
Other hosts of the FIFA U-17 World Cup- the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium at Kochi, Jawaharlal Stadium at Delhi, DY Patil Stadium at Navi Mumbai, Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium at Guwahati and the Fatorda stadium at Margao have also been redied to host the big tournament.