From today onwards it's the best and largest stadium in Paraguay. First one to have field-level boxes but also a stadium built partly by its supporters. Welcome home, Cerro Porteño!
They may have lost 1:2, but for Cerro Porteño the friendly game against Boca Juniors is just a commemoration of something much greater: return to a completely changed home. Over the last two years their stadium was reconstructed entirely with a very modest budget and it's thus no wonder that a sell-out crowd of 45,000 people flocked inside, having queued for hours outside. Fireworks, illuminations and cultural performances helped make the event memorable. After all, it's the largest reconstruction in this ground's history.
Long way to this point
For almost 60 years one of Paraguay's most famous clubs didn't have a home of their own, playing across several grounds in Asuncion. This lasted until their now famous “La Olla Monumental” (The Great Cauldron) was opened in Barrio Obrero in 1970.
Its nickname was given by the stadium's creator and then club-president General Pablo Rojas, whose name the building took once he passed away. The nickname started by Rojas exists to this day and fans commonly refer to the stadium as La Olla. For years it was also accompanied by La Ollita, the club's secondary stadium along the big one's north end.
Though called a cauldron, the stadium in its original 1970 layout wasn't completele enclosed. There was a signifcant opening in the south-eastern part due to a house whose owners had been refusing to sell for many years. An agreement was finally reached 38 years after opening of the ground and allowed for the last section of terracing to be erected in 2009. Due to such spatial constraints the stadium never gained a symmetric and regular shape, always being somewhat crooked.
The new Cauldron
It survived that way until 2015, when the first ever complete reconstruction was launched under the motto of “La Nueva Olla”. It saw some of the sunken bowl remodelled and the playing field lowered significantly. This enabled the creation of first field-level private boxes in Paraguay below the front row of seating at the main side.
The grandstand of La Ollita was demolished to add a 5,000-seat upper tier to the north stand (creating an 11,000-capacity stand), while slightly smaller upper tier was created above the east and south stands. The main grandstand gained substantial amount of floor space and dozens of new skyboxes, which played crucial role in financing of the entire scheme. While smoothened significantly, the stadium to this day remains asymmetric.
Fans made it happen
As is quite common in South America, substantial portion of the funding came from supporters. Cerro launched the sale of some 80 corporate boxes before construction began and managed to secure 100% occupancy for 5 years in advance. They also got over 80% occupancy in the business section, covering a significant part of the $20 million budget.
Interestingly, 40 members of the club's 'barras' (fan groups) had also worked for 18 months on the stadium's construction in a publicity campaign that helped their image and created a stronger bond between fans and their holy ground.