A giant new 100k-capacity arena in Italy is riding out the pandemic – before hosting huge shows in 2021

It won’t have escaped your notice that these are not great days for the global live music industry. And if only ‘days’ was the most apposite word in that sentence.

Instead, the damage to the sector inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic has stretched to months (and could drag on for years), with the future of venues, promoters, agents and various satellite businesses all under threat.

But, in the heart of Northern Italy – ironically one of the areas of Europe hardest hit by Covid-19 – there is a rare spot of spectacular good news in the form of a project that speaks of an inherent belief in the future not just of live music, but of concerts and events on an unprecedented scale.

The RCF Arena, in Emilia-Romagna, is a new, purpose-built permanent structure with a maximum capacity of 100,000.

Yes, one hundred thousand.

The two execs behind the project, Ferdinando Salzano and Claudio Maioli, believe that the RCF Arena is the biggest venue for music on the continent, and are confident it will become a global landmark stop on the world’s biggest tours.

It is a venue built to welcome legends and break records.

Okay, now the less good news: it was supposed to open last week.

In fact, 100,000 tickets for the opening concert, featuring local superstar Luciano Ligabue, had sold out when the Italian live industry was shut down due to Covid earlier this year.

Salzano and Maioli, however, are undeterred. They have used the enforced delay to enhance facilities and pre-book more shows for 2021.

Between them, the duo have around 60 years’ experience. Salzano is the founder of Friends & Partners, a leading producer and promoter in Italy which was bought by CTS Eventim Group in 2017. Maioli is the founder of Riservarossa, which books tours and manages artists (Ligabue is the company’s most notable client).

All that experience, plus plenty of resolve, has been tested by the realization of the RCF Arena, and the impact of the coronavirus, but they are united in their confidence that the project will become not just a world renowned venue fit for the bucket list of any major touring artist, but also a symbol of live music’s importance, resilience and bright future…

When and how did the idea for such an ambitious project begin?

CLAUDIO MAIOLI (pictured inset): The dream is to be able to create a unique structure for Europe that can give true value and respect to music and entertainment, having been created exclusively for these purposes.

For once, music will not have to ‘borrow’ structures and venues created for other purposes such as sports etc.

Is it the largest dedicated music venue in Europe? What are its main competitors?

CM: To our knowledge, we believe that there is no other resident/permanent structure in Europe created exclusively for live music that has the capacity to hold 100,000 people.

“We believe that there is no other permanent structure in Europe created exclusively for live music that has the capacity to hold 100,000 people.”

It would be interesting to find out if there is such a permanent venue in the US with this capacity. Maybe we are the largest in the world?

Can you tell us about the team behind the project – both in terms of ownership and in terms of who is doing what?

CM: The founders are myself and Ferdinando Salzano, followed by a number of local business entrepreneurs and professionals of Reggio Emilia, always in synergy with the Mayor and the Emilia Romagna Regional authorities, which have played a fundamental role.

The management of RCF Arena is entrusted to C.Volo S.p.a., formed by a consortium of 7 companies: Coopservice Soc.coop.p.A., Arena Campovolo S.r.l., Finregg S.p.a., Nial Nizzoli S.r.l., Rcf Group S.p.a., Smart Group S.c.a.r.l. and Taste S.r.l. Operational management is entrusted to Arena Campovolo srl.

Did you take soundings from leading companies, promoters, managers etc as to whether or not there was the demand for such a venue?

FERDINANDO SALZANO (pictured inset): I’d rather not go into details of negotiations that were underway before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, but there were several.

“We want to have five major events on the bill in 2021, all attracting between 50K and 100K people.”

We want to have five major events on the bill in 2021, all attracting between 50K and 100K people, and then a dozen or so smaller shows, which could also be hosted in ‘the boulevard’, which is a very large area within the venue that could easily meet different needs.

Can you give us some highlights of the venue’s specifications that help showcase what a unique site it will be?

FS: Based on our own experiences, we have created the a venue that offers the best possible conditions to host large productions: large spaces for backstage offices and furnished dressing rooms, parking near the backstage area for production trucks, a catering area, medium power electrical panels for load-in and load-out, toilets with showers, resident internet services, etc.

“The 5% slope also guarantees total visibility from every angle.”

Skyboxes are also planned for visitors looking for an extra level of comfort and different types of special packages with various offerings.

The 5% slope also guarantees total visibility from every angle. It was specifically designed by expert architects, then the landscape was modified to allow this unique visibility of the stage from every single spot in the venue.

When was it originally due to open?

FS: It was supposed to be inaugurated on September 12, with a concert celebrating the 30-year career of Luciano Ligabue, an artist who represents this place for the Italian public, as Reggio Emilia is his home town. The show was already sold out last January, with 100,000 tickets sold.

“we were over 90,000 tickets sold when the pandemic hit.”

That would have been followed on September 19 by Una Nessuna Centomila, a concert with seven great Italian female artists: Fiorella Mannoia, Emma, Alessandra Amoroso, Giorgia, Elisa, Gianna Nannini, Laura Pausini, all rallying in favor of the anti-violence centers, which was also well on the way to selling out – we were over 90,000 tickets sold when the pandemic hit.

When do you plan your opening now?

FS: On June 19, 2021, again with Luciano Ligabue’s concert. Luciano also surprised his fans on Sept 10, playing his new single La Ragazza Dei Tuoi Sogni (The Girl of Your Dreams) live from the RCF Arena. The event was televised prime time on national tv RAI 1 and watched by 3.7 million people (17% share).

CM: Luciano is the artist whose name is linked most closely to Campovolo. Until we built the venue, it was a field where he played massive shows. In addition to being born in the area, where he still lives, he played four unforgettable shows here, three as a soloist, with record numbers of tickets sold, and the Italia Loves Emilia benefit event, a concert in which many great Italian artists participated in support of the region that was hit by a terrible earthquake in 2012.

Can you tell us about some of your sustainability initiatives, both in terms of the infrastructure and in terms of how it operates?

FS: The Arena is a permanent construction and so features and services are designed to reduce the use of generators to just the hours of the show and the build-up to the show.

We have put in place a large collaboration network with the main rail transport carriers to give an easy alternative to driving, making use of the nearby high-speed stations as well as the regional ones.

“The Arena is a permanent construction and so features and services are designed to reduce the use of generators to just the hours of the show and the build-up to the show.”

CM: We also have agreements in place with one of the biggest bus travel operators, so that concert goers can travel comfortably, with a parking area entirely dedicated to buses near the Arena, capable of holding several hundred vehicles.

Also, for food and drinks we want to shorten the produce purchase chain, favoring as much as possible agreements with local farmers.

In addition, we will activate awareness campaigns aimed at the public for responsible behavior in regard to recycling.

Finally, what are the main points you would like to get across to the biggest artists, managers and promoters in the world to persuade them to use this venue?

FS: In this Arena we believe we can host any stages created for big tours, relying on large spaces dedicated to the positioning of the stages and the ability of the ground to support very large loads.

Furthermore: sustainability, uniqueness, the 5% slope and the concept specifically linked to the enjoyment of a music event are our cornerstones.

And last, but not least, the RCF Arena is geographically located in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, easily accessible from most of continental Europe and beyond.

For industry enquiries about the RCF Arena, contact Paolo d’Alessandro via campovolo [at] motion.agencyMusic Business Worldwide