Uefa Euro 2016: the ten venues giving French soccer a facelift

As the countdown to the Uefa European Championships in France continues, SportsPro profiles each of the ten venues that will host Europe’s biggest event in 2016.

Uefa Euro 2016: the ten venues giving French soccer a facelift

Preparations for next year’s Uefa European Championship in France have so far managed to escape the scrutiny that has come to be expected of major events. As the countdown to the tournament continues, SportsPro profiles each of the ten venues that will host Europe’s biggest event in 2016.

By Michael Long

Kick-off may be due in around nine months’ time, but it has been easy to overlook Uefa Euro 2016. That is, it has been easy to forget it is taking place at all. With the attention of the global soccer media having been firmly trained in recent months on Fifa and its heavily scrutinised World Cups in Brazil, Russia and Qatar, the organisers of next year’s European Championship in France have been left to go about their business more or less under the radar. 

That preparations for next summer’s tournament, the third to be held in France, have received relatively little attention will have been welcomed by Uefa, the European game’s governing body who themselves came under considerable pressure in the run-up to the 2012 edition of their flagship event in Poland and Ukraine. That competition, for all the highlights it ultimately produced on the pitch, was dogged by infrastructure delays and beset by logistical challenges. There can be no such fears over Euro 2016.

A return to France, host of the Euros in 1960 and 1984, marks a return to an established soccer heartland for Uefa, and with a little under 300 days to go until the 2016 tournament kicks off at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, next June, things are moving along rather nicely. Overseen by Euro 2016 SAS, a joint venture created by Uefa and the French Football Federation (FFF), the commercial programme for the tournament is advancing apace, with organisers well on course to reach their overall target of €1.4 billion in broadcast rights and sponsorship income. Licensing and merchandising partners are steadily being contracted according to plan and the initial phase of the event’s ticketing programme got up and running in July without any notable hiccups. It is, however, the local organisers’ efficiently executed stadium programme that has perhaps proved most impressive. 

In total, ten venues will host matches at Euro 2016, the first European Championship to include an expanded line-up of 24 teams and 51 fixtures. The time taken to build a new stadium for the tournament has averaged just 30 months. New venues have been, or are being, constructed in the cities of Lille, Nice, Lyon and Bordeaux, while those in Marseille, Paris, Saint-Etienne, Lens and Toulouse have undergone major renovations. The Stade de France, the tournament’s centrepiece that will host the final as well as the opening game, has been the subject of some minor upgrades.

The total investment in stadiums for Euro 2016 stands at around €1.6 billion, with the tournament having been hailed by Uefa as ‘the catalyst for a massive modernisation programme that will allow France to develop a new generation of sports facilities’. Since 1945, as Uefa literature points out, only three stadiums with a capacity greater than 30,000 have been built in France: the Parc des Princes in Paris in 1972, La Beaujoire in Nantes in 1984, and the Stade de France in 1998.

V for Vinci

Of the ten stadium projects for Euro 2016, French firm Vinci Concessions – Europe’s largest stadium operator with integrated divisions spanning design, finance, construction and venue management – is involved, either as constructor, operator or both, in five. One such venue, the New Bordeaux stadium, was conceived by Herzog and De Meuron, designers of FC Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena as well as Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium, and built by the Stade Bordeaux Atlantique consortium, a 50:50 venture formed by Vinci and the Fayat Group, under a private-public partnership (PPP) for €184 million. 

Officially inaugurated in May, the venue has been described by Euro 2016 SAS president Jacques Lambert as “one of the stand-out examples of the new generation of stadiums that organising Uefa Euro 2016 has allowed France to build” and boasts a unique metallic structure that consists of 900 stanchions designed to resemble the trunks of local Landes pine trees. With 42,000 seats in its sports event configuration and up to 45,000 for concerts, the new home of Ligue 1 soccer side FC Girondins de Bordeaux is a prime example of the speed with which many of the Euro 2016 venues have been constructed: the entire construction phase ran from November 2012 to April of this year.

Lyon’s Stade des Lumières, meanwhile, is another Vinci project going up at a remarkable pace. Though it will be the last Euro 2016 venue to open when it is inaugurated early next year, building work on the 58,000-seater stadium in Décines only began in the summer of 2013. Built at a reported cost of €405 million, the stadium is the most expensive being constructed for Euro 2016 and forms the centrepiece of a 45-hectare multi-use development, OL Park, which will also include a new training ground for its Ligue 1 tenants Olympique Lyonnais as well as a sports museum, sports medicine centre, a health spa and leisure centre, and a 150-room hotel. Populous-designed, the Stade des Lumières certainly lives up to its name, with its most notable feature an enormous translucent roof over the stands – the largest of its kind in Europe – which is made from a special fabric that allows UV rays to pass through for optimal pitch lighting. 

Nice’s Allianz Riviera, home of Ligue 1 side OGC Nice, has been in operation since September 2013 following a construction process that took almost exactly two years to complete. The €204 million project, designed by Wilmotte & Associés SA and constructed by Vinci, was revived for France’s bid for Euro 2016, having previously been planned, and then shelved, several years earlier. Like three other Euro 2016 venues, the Allianz Riviera was born of a PPP, in this case between city, regional and state authorities, and Vinci Concessions, the financial company Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, and South Europe Infrastructure Equity Finance (SEIEF).

To date, the stadium in Nice is the only Euro 2016 venue to be the subject of a naming rights deal, with German financial services firm Allianz having signed a nine-year, €16.2 million (US$19.6 million) agreement to rename the 36,000-capacity venue in July 2012.

The remaining two Euro 2016 stadium projects in which Vinci is involved have both been subject to renovations ahead of the tournament. Paris’ Parc des Princes, home to Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain since 1973, has undergone a two-year €75 million revamp, funded jointly by the City of Paris and PSG’s Qatari owners. Two new rows of seating have been installed to bring fans closer to the pitch and increase the total capacity to 48,000, while new VIP areas and food outlets, more pubic conveniences, Wi-Fi, and a PSG museum are just some of the new additions at the ground. 

The Stade de France, meanwhile, is the stadium that has needed the least work ahead of next summer’s tournament. The largest Euro 2016 venue, with a capacity of 80,000, was originally constructed by Vinci to host the 1998 Fifa World Cup.

French soccer's facelift

The Euro 2016 venues in Lille, Lens and Toulouse are all designed by Bordeaux-based Atelier Ferret Architectures. Lille’s cutting-edge Stade Pierre Mauroy, run by a subsidiary of the French construction firm Eiffage Group, was officially opened in August 2012 and now plays host to Ligue 1 club LOSC Lille. Heralded by Euro 2016 SAS stadiums director Xavier Daniel as bringing “a new concept in the world”, its most distinctive design feature is a retractable pitch that can be entirely reconfigured, creating space for a multitude of other sports and entertainment events.

“The pitch is a unique set-up,” the venue’s head of marketing and sports, Julien Rongier, told *SportsPro* earlier this year. “To explain it very simply: you take the pitch, you cut it in half so you have the north section and the south section. The north section disconnects and it rises five metres above the pitch ground level and slides over the south section. And beneath the north part you have a big concert arena that can welcome up to 30,000 people.”

In Lens, the ageing yet iconic Stade Bollaert-Delelis is in the final stages of a major renovation being carried out at a cost of €70 million. Built by unemployed miners back in the 1930s, it has undergone numerous upgrades since its original opening over 80 years ago. Though not as large or as technologically advanced as other Euro 2016 venues, Stade Bollaert-Delelis holds the rare distinction of being able to accommodate virtually the entire population of the town in which it is located, with Lens home to just 36,000 inhabitants.

Atelier Ferret Architectures’ third Euro 2016 venue is the 33,000-seater Stadium Municipal in the southern city of Toulouse. Like Lens’ Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Toulouse’s stadium is a publicly funded facility undergoing a significant renovation. New seats have been added to three of its stands, while lighting at the facility has been upgraded and security enhanced through the installation of a new 150-camera video surveillance system. 

The remaining two venues have also benefited from major overhauls in anticipation of next summer’s event. Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome was officially inaugurated last October after three years of extensive renovation work courtesy of Bouygues Group subsidiary Arema, which now operates the venue. A significant logistical challenge was overcome as Olympique de Marseille, Ligue 1 tenants of the stadium, played on throughout the rebuild that saw some 40,000 cubic metres of concrete, a 6,000-tonne roof support structure and 3,800 tonnes of steel added to the building. With an increased capacity of 67,000, the venue is now covered by a distinctive 65,000-square metre undulating canopy that dominates the Marseille skyline.

Last but not least, Saint-Étienne’s Stade Geoffroy Guichard reopened in the new year and is operated by local and regional authorities, who between them funded the entire renovation project that saw work carried out in three phases over a three-year period. Some €72 million was invested to complete the work, which saw stands remodelled and new hospitality areas created at Le Chaudron.

Euro 2016 stadiums: by the numbers
10 – Stadiums hosting Uefa Euro 2016 matches
3 – Stadiums built by Vinci (Bordeaux, Lyon and Nice)
43,000 – Average capacity of Euro 2016 stadiums
30 – Average number of months taken to build a new Euro 2016 stadium
8,000 – Tons of steel used in Lyon’s Stade des Lumieres – the same as the Eiffel Tower
40,000 – Cubic metres of concrete used to revamp Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome
16.2 million – Euros paid by Allianz to rename Nice’s stadium as the Allianz Riviera
2.5 million – Fans expected to attend Euro 2016 matches


The venues

Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Status: Existing stadium
Project leader: Stade de France Consortium
Type of project: Minor renovation
Capacity: 80,000
Architects: SCAU
Constructor: -
Operator: Consortium Stade de France
Cost of project: -
Financing: -
Matches: Four group matches, one round of 16 tie, one quarter-final, final



Stade des Lumières, Lyon
Status: Scheduled to open early 2016
Project leader: Olympique Lyonnais
Type of project: New stadium
Capacity: 58,000
Architects: Populous
Constructor: Vinci
Operator: Olympique Lyonnais
Financing: Private
Cost of project: €405m
Matches: Four group matches, one round of 16 tie, one semi-final



Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille Métropole
Status: Opened in August 2012
Project leader: Lille Métropole Urban Community
Type of project: New stadium
Capacity: 50,000
Constructor: Eiffage
Architects: Valode & Pistre - Atelier Ferret Architectures
Operator: Elisa
Financing: Public-private partnership
Cost of project: €324m
Matches: Four group matches, one round of 16 tie, one quarter-final



New Bordeaux stadium, Bordeaux
Status: Opened in May 2015
Project leader: Bordeaux City Council
Type of project: New stadium
Capacity: 42,000
Architects: Herzog & De Meuron - Groupe 6
Constructor: Vinci – Fayat Architects
Operator: -
Financing: Public-private partnership
Cost of project: €184m
Matches: Four group matches, one quarter-final



Allianz Riviera, Nice
Status: Opened in September 2013
Project leader: Nice City Council
Type of project: New stadium
Capacity: 36,000
Constructor: Vinci
Architects: Wilmotte & Associés SA
Operator: Nice Eco Stadium
Financing: Public-private partnership
Cost of project: €204m Matches: Three group matches, one round of 16 tie




Stade Vélodrome, Marseille
Status: Opened in October 2014
Project leader: Marseille City Council
Type of project: Major renovation
Capacity: 67,000
Constructor: Bouygues
Architects: SCAU
Operator: Aréma
Financing: Public-private partnership
Cost of project: €267m
Matches: Four group matches, one quarter-final, one semi-final



Parc des Princes, Paris
Status: Scheduled for completion in August 2015
Project leader: Paris City Council and PSG
Type of project: Major renovation
Capacity: 48,000
Constructor: Vinci
Architects: ATSP
Operator: SESE
Financing: Private
Cost of project: €75m
Matches: Four group matches, one round of 16 tie



Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Étienne
Status: Completed in January 2015
Project leader: Saint-Étienne Métropole
Type of project: Major renovation
Capacity: 42,000
Constructor: Léon Grosse
Architects: Chaix & Morel et Associés
Operator: Saint-Etienne Métropole
Financing: Public
Cost of project: €72m
Matches: Three group matches, one round of 16 tie



Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens Agglo
Status: Scheduled for completion in November 2015
Project leader: Nord Pas-de-Calais Regional Council
Type of project: Major renovation
Capacity: 38,000
Architects: Cardete & Huet – Atelier Ferret Architectures
Operator: FC Lens
Financing: Public
Cost of project: €70m
Matches: Three group matches, one round of 16 tie



Stadium Municipal, Toulouse
Status: Scheduled for completion in 2015
Project leader: Toulouse City Council
Type of project: Major renovation
Capacity: 33,000
Constructor: SOCOTRAP
Architects: Cardete & Huet – Atelier Ferret Architectures
Operator: Toulouse City Council
Financing: Public
Cost of project: €35m
Matches: Three group matches, one round of 16 tie


This feature appears in the September 2015 edition of SportsPro magazine. Subscribe today here.