By far the most multifunctional and experimental stadium in France, with one-of-a-kind foldable field. Although this feature won’t be used during Euro 2016, hopefully.
Before the tournament
In late 1990s and early 2000s Lille was in a peculiar position. Local team was relegated and then bounced back surprisingly well, just to see their home ground closed in 2004 and later demolished. Lille OSC were thus forced to play at one of the poorest stadiums across Ligue 1, the athletic municipal stadium.
There were ambitious plans to build a new ground for the team, one that would stand out in a positive way. But the scheme foreseeing a 33,000+ Stade Grimonprez-Jooris in central Lille fell through before groundbreaking in 2002. Sad at the time, it opened the door to what the city has to offer nowadays, which is much more than anticipated 10-15 years before.
Euro 2016 investment
There was no waiting for Euro 2016 in Lille, quite the contrary. It was the scale and determination of Lille’s project that put the city on tournament map and strengthened the French bid. While LOSC weren’t among France’s strongest teams back then, the ambitious side received one of the largest stadiums, first one with sliding roof and folding turf.
Such a large project, conjoined with a hotel precinct, cost €324 million, of which the stadium itself required €282 million ($350m in 2012, upon opening). The financial burden didn’t rest only on the Lille authorities as they entered a public-private partnership with Eiffage, lasting until 2043.
The previous stadium of LOSC was located in the very heart of Lille, beside the local citadel. The new one was located far outside downtown, in the south-eastern outskirts. While not desirable for pedestrian access, this is where highways from around the region meet, providing comfortable road access not only for Lille residents. As for locals or fans during Euro 2016, subway remains the dominant option with 4 stations within 700-900 meters.
Ferret, Valode and Pistre are just three major names in French sports architecture that were involved in this stadium. Its oval exterior seems opaque from a distance, but becomes almost transparent when seen up close. The outer form is created with translucent tubes, illuminated at night to create a captivating impression. North façade differs from the rest, it’s cut out of the oval shape and forms a giant screen.
Aesthetics aside, the building was a major engineering challenge as no other in France had a retractable roof before. The four segments slide along main roof trusses to enclose the stadium within minutes. As if this wasn’t enough, half of the field operates in similar motion, sliding over the other one to reveal a hidden area capable of holding a stage, basketball court or other amenities. With curtains the stadium can be converted into a 25,000 arena in a short while.
The folding field posed concerns regarding quality of its natural grass. Especially with the stadium’s limited sunlight access. But, aided with lamps, the field is withstanding this unconventional use well.
Perhaps the most conventional part of the stadium is its seating bowl. Divided into three continuous rings, the two large ones are regular and between them is the corporate level with private boxes and semi-open balconies. Altogether the premium seating makes up 10% of the capacity, again – very standard for venues of this size. But in case this sounds like a disadvantage, the layout is versatile and gives everyone very good sightlines. Additionally, the low roof and dark interior give an intimate feel, making the stadium’s scale less imposing.
Euro 2016 games
|Germany – Ukraine||12/06/2016 21:00||Group C|
|Russia – Slovakia||15/06/2016 15:00||Group B|
|Switzerland – France||19/06/2016 21:00||Group A|
|Italy – Ireland||22/06/2016 21:00||Group E|
|?? - ??||26/06/2016 18:00||Round of 16|
|?? - ??||01/07/2016 21:00||Quarterfinal|
When the stadium was under planning, there were fears whether Lille OSC would fill it regularly. And indeed, games are hardly ever sold out. It was very good during the first season with average crowds of 40,000+, but after three years attendance dropped to 30,000. Staying at that level in the long run should suffice for safe and profitable operation, though.
We should also remember that this stadium wasn’t planned for league football alone. It may be converted into an indoor arena within hours, which was used during the Davis Cup tennis games, concerts and other non-sporting events on numerous occasions. With the building being operated commercially until 2043, Eiffage is incentivized to maximize revenues.