National Stadium inside La Sabana Park
National Stadium inside La Sabana Park

There a many natural, beautiful places in Costa Rica that visitors flock to in order to get the most of their stay in Costa Rica, and I can’t blame them. I have been all over this wonderful country, and I’m not planning on stopping my travels anytime soon! There is another side to tourist attractions though – those that are man-made. One of my favorite structures in Costa Rica is the National Stadium, the first modern sporting and entertainment arena which was completed and opened in 2011. The stadium is located in San José, in La Sabana Metropolitan Park, and it replaced an older stadium that was built in the early 1920's and used to seat about 25,000 football fans during matches.

The stadium was a gift from the Chinese government, who financed everything from the construction of the venue to the furnishing inside of it. The agreement to build the stadium was the result of a visit between the presidents of Costa Rica and China. The stadium was originally estimated to cost about $80 million, but by the time construction was completed the total cost was near $110 million. The state-of-the-art National Stadium now seats over 35,000 fans and visitors, and it serves as the home stadium for the national football team of Costa Rica. It is the largest entertainment venue in the country, and it is also the first modern stadium in Central America.

Big trees in La Sabana Park
Big trees in La Sabana Park

Transforming La Sabana Park

Today, the stadium is a sight to behold, and I love to visit; but there was a time when it was hard to imagine that it would ever be ready and standing so tall and beautiful.

The old stadium was demolished in the first half of 2008, following the location’s final event – a football match - and left in its place was just a lot filled with dirt and mud. Construction on the new project opened in early March of 2009, and it took two years to build and open the new stadium. While that might sound like a long time, it really isn’t when you consider how much the new structure has to offer! Today, the masterpiece offers 10,000 more seats than the old stadium, along with office buildings on the ground floor, a small museum dedicated to sports history, a hotel, and even a banquet hall.

Those that I have talked to in my country agree that the construction of this stadium would have taken much longer if the Chinese hadn’t been leading the project. Their pace was unbelievable, and of course they had all the funding that they needed to keep the project moving along. Costa Rican project sometimes hit a wall when the right funding can’t be acquired, or when government gets in the way. The 27th Highway – just one project – is an example that took almost 35 years to plan and build.

Main Entrance to the National Stadium
Main Entrance to the National Stadium

A Whole New World of Entertainment

If you’ll be in the capital city of San José during your trip to Costa Rica, I suggest that you try to head to the National Stadium to experience some of the most exciting sporting events and concerts that the country has to offer. You could be one of 35,000 fans that head to the stadium to find their seat in the three decks of seating. Don’t worry if you don’t have close-up seats, there are two giant TV screens that display close-ups of what is happening on the stage or field, and they are placed at either end of the arena.

Costa Ricans are very happy to have this master arena in their country. Ever since the March, 2011 inauguration, excitement has been buzzing around this stadium. The inauguration was such a big celebration, with inauguration events lasting for about two weeks. Those events included national and international sporting events for a full stadium, including the main event which was as friendly football match between Costa Rica and China, as well as entertainment events. The stadium also has a dedicated website, which was a great source of information during inauguration events, and today offers information to locals and visitors about upcoming events.

Today’s Events

Those upcoming events include both concerts and sports. The concerts that are played in the National Stadium span all kinds of music genres, including pop, rock, and international sensations. I don’t mean to name drop, but I’ve seen Shakira, Pearl Jam, Judas Priest, Juan Luis Guerra, and Marc Anthony at the stadium! Those aren’t the only notable performers that have graced the stage at National Stadium either; others from over the last six years include Miley Cyrus, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Elton John, Lady Gaga, and Paul McCartney (it was his first concert in Costa Rica).

In addition to concerts, the stadium hosts football and boxing events, too. In fact, all of the 14 matches of the Central American Cup in 2013 were held here. The arena has seen competitions on the field between Costa Rica, China, and Argentina. Several games of the Women’s World Cup were also hosted at National Stadium in 2014, including the competition’s opening and final games. We’ve also see Hannah Gabriels and Melisenda Perez box in the stadium.

Parking Area at National StadiumParking Area at National Stadium


Parking

It’s also important to mention the parking situation at the stadium. While locals will have the inside scoop, visitors might not be prepared. Parking is probably the stadium’s biggest pain point. I love the stadium, and I love that it can fit 35,000 people – but the parking spots available around the stadium only equal about 3,000. The stadium itself has maybe 200 spots on the premises, and the rest of the spots are available around the general vicinity. Obviously, this is a problem – even if most of the attendees choose to carpool. There is public transportation available, which is a good option and helps avoid the headache of parking. If you are using a rental car, try to find another way to get to the stadium, or at least plan on parking somewhere that is just kind of close to the stadium, instead of being a short distance from the entrance.