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Stadium made of straw? Farmer protests spending with straw replica

In this photo taken on Saturday, July 22, 2017, shows a view of the arena, made of 4,500 straw bales, comes complete with tiered seating and flagpoles in Krasnoye, Stavropol region, South Russia. In a project straight out of the "Three Little Pigs" fairytale, Roman Ponomarev has built a straw replica of the 643-billion-ruble ($700 million) stadium in St. Petersburg which will host World Cup semifinals. |
Oleksandr Stashevskyi/AP

KRASNOYE, Russia — His arena made of 4,500 straw bales comes with tiered seating for 300 and flagpoles. It hosted its first tournament — for local teams only — last weekend using modified soccer rules.

“It’s good to get people excited and create a sports atmosphere ahead of the World Cup,” Ponomaryov said in a recent interview.

The real St. Petersburg Stadium has drawn ire for its cost, corruption scandals, delays, and workers’ deaths.

Ponomaryov is a fan of the Zenit St. Petersburg club and says he modeled his straw stadium on Zenit’s new home in a gentle dig at the problems around the construction.

“It seemed pretty strange … how the cost of the stadium and its construction timeframe were increasing,” he said. Russia’s total World Cup budget is around $10.7 billion.

Zenit has accepted the straw stadium with good humor, offering Ponomaryov a ticket to a game at the real thing.

The harvest will keep him on the farm for the next few weeks, though, and he has in mind another project — organizing a Straw World Cup.