Shortly after launching this website I headed over to the Lac district of Bordeaux to get an idea of where the city would be building its...

An update on Stade Bordeaux Atlantique, the next big sporting arena

Shortly after launching this website I headed over to the Lac district of Bordeaux to get an idea of where the city would be building its new 43,000-seater arena, set to form the backdrop to the endeavours of footballers, rugby players and international music stars in the years to come.

At the time it took a great deal of imagination to picture a stadium rising above the trees but now, a little over a year ahead of delivery, the skyline has indeed changed beyond recognition.

Here then is the view as it was back in early 2012, and a photo taken from more or less the same spot a few weeks ago:

Plans for a new stadium in Bordeaux had been milling around for a number of years. Firstly, football club Les Girondins de Bordeaux currently reside at Stade Chaban-Delmas in central Bordeaux, a stadium which has been in operation since 1938 and which is showing its age in these modern times. Then, when in 2010 France was chosen to host the 2016 European football championships, one certainty was that if the city of Bordeaux was to play ball, the new stadium project would have to make the transition from the drawing board to the real world.

Mid 2013: parts of the concrete
stands before they were put in position!
In 2011 it was announced that the construction of the new stadium had been entrusted to a consortium formed by the building companies Vinci (also behind construction of what became the Chaban-Delmas lift bridge) and Fayat. The accompanying design was the work of prolific Swiss architects Jacques Herzof and Pierre de Meuron, the people behind the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany and the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium in Beijing, China.

The stadium, currently known as Stade Bordeaux Atlantique (although most simply refer to “le Grand Stade”) but likely to be re-named as part of a sponsorship deal, will principally be dedicated to football as it will be the new permanent home of the Girondins. It will also host occasional concerts and rugby matches (although local Top 14 team Union Bordeaux-Bègles look set to become the permanent residents of Chaban-Delmas stadium), as well as offering seminar and conference facilities.

Getting to the stadium should be relatively straightforward: extension work on line C of the tram network is nearing completion, the Rocade ring-road is within easy reach… and even cyclists will be well catered-for with dedicated paths and ample bike-parking facilities. Meanwhile, cars will park on the nearby exhibition centre car park, which has been totally covered with solar panels.

The eastern wing of the stadium.
Work in progress, behind panels giving a sense of the atmosphere we can soon expect to experience inside.
The estimated overall cost of the stadium project is €170 million, funded by the French State (€28m), the city of Bordeaux (€17m), the greater Bordeaux authority (€15m), the Aquitaine regional council (€15m) and the Girondins along with their owners M6 (an initial outlay of €20m followed by an annual rent of around €4m paid over 30 years and topped up by the city of Bordeaux). Presumably, unlike here, the maths do add up in the official public/private partnership paperwork!

The stadium itself is described in architect-speak as being “highly elegant, presenting itself as a prism encasing two pyramids formed by steps and the underside of the stands. The whole structure is supported by a dense forest of slim pillars”, as is clearly visible in the artist's impressions of the end-product below:

Writing in 2012, I joked that the only slim pillar-like objects in the vicinity were the streetlights on the neighbouring roundabout, but since building work began in April 2013 (after six months of preliminary groundwork) the progress has been astounding and the pillars are indeed in position, as are the stands, the windows of some of the corporate hospitality suites and, most recently, sections of the roof. As shown in the third artist's impression above, spectators should have a fine, unobstructed view of the sporting action taking place on the pitch, described as “à l’anglaise”, i.e. with no athletics track around it.

Although the site is, understandably, not generally accessible to the public, a visitor centre is open every weekend and pre-planned corporate/school group visits are organised every Friday. An all-comers open day may be organised sometime this spring, and it is thought that the stadium will be among this year's heritage days visits. 

The 2014-2015 football season will be the Girondins’ last at Chaban-Delmas stadium. Much as I’ll miss going to games at Chaban-Delmas, I’m very much looking forward to taking in the atmosphere at the new stadium! In the meantime, this Sud Ouest clip shows how it currently looks:

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