|118 (Press seats)|
|Renovations||1954, 1976, 1977, 1983, 1995-1997, 2014-2015|
|Record attendance||48 912 (Lens - Marseille, 15/02/1992)|
|Cost||€70 million (2014-2015)|
|Design||Gustave Spriet (1933), Cardete & Huet, Atelier Ferret Architectures (2014-2015)|
|Address||Avenue Alfred-Maes, BP 236, 62304 Lens Cedex|
Stade Bollaert-Delelis – stadium description
Its capacity is larger than number of Lens citizens, but for decades the ground has been destination to many residents of the whole region that has over half a million people. Already at the beginning of the 20th Century RC Lens were the local team, but had to move twice due to residents’ pressure and World War I destruction. Since 1920’s the club was growing strong with decision to build a new stadium in early 30’s.
Official inauguration took place in May with the symbolic playing of two anthems: French and Polish as the Polish diaspora was large in this industrial region. Poles were also among the volunteers building this ground, initiated by Felix Bollaert, the executive of French Mining Company. As he passed away in 1936, it became apparent that he is the right patron for the venue. In 2012 another patron was added, the then deceased mayor André Delelis.
Since the bonds with local industry were very tight (miners built and financed it), the situation of RC Lens and the state of the ground were also depending on the current economic situation. That’s why the ground was improving in 1950’s (floodlights installed in 1954) and then started deteriorating rapidly in 1960’s. In 1970’s a wall collapsed at the tribune of honor, sending a clear signal that work needs to be done. As the club couldn’t afford that, the stadium was transferred to the municipality. New stands came in 1976 and 1977 along with other improvements, resulting in Stade Félix Bollaert being again among best venues in France.
That opened way for a place among Euro 1984 venues. Before that tournament further works were commissioned and the ground became France’s largest until 1998 with over 51,000 capacity. It became a “British”, rectangular stadium without corner sections. Then before 1998, as World Cup hosts, the French opened Stade de France that overshadowed Bollaert, but Lens also had their share with three new stands erected at the stadium.
The revamped ground is considered very atmospheric due to Steep and robust stands, largely dictated by local constraints. But it also had serious shortcomings, which resulted in plans of further upgrade ahead of Euro 2016. All of the comprised roof was removed and replaced with new one, this time covering all spectators. It’s based on four slim pylons, 72m-tall each.
Initially there were plans to vastly expand commercial and hospitality spaces behind the southern main grandstand, but they were eventually scrapped to cut cost. The same happened with capacity, which was to grow to 44,000, but instead was slightly reduced to 38,000+. This allowed public authorities to spend €70 million rather than initially planned €111 million.
The outcome, result of over 1.5 years of work, is an elegant stadium with new white outer cladding, largely polycarbonate. Seats were replaced with white/grey/black, which resulted in some outcry by RC Lens fans disappointed in new “sanitized” décor.
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