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Official Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Grand Stade Pierre Mauroy is a football stadium in the metropolitan area of the French city of Lille in the municipality of Villeneuve d'Ascq. It is the home stadium of Ligue 1 team Lille OSC, and it is the first and so far only football stadium in France which has a retractable roof. It was opened in August 2012 and is named after the socialist politician Pierre Mauroy who was for a very long time mayor of Lille.
The construction of the stadium was projected to cost €324 million, of which €282 million accounted for the arena and parking with the remaining €42 million to cover a hotel, a mall, a restaurant and more. But after the earthquake in Japan in March 2011 the law stated that all new buildings are protected against earthquakes. This delayed the project and added €91 million to the total costs to build the stadium.
The stadium has a capacity of 50,186 of which 4,965 are business seats and 1,842 luxury box seats. There are 326 places reserved for the press. This makes it the third largest club football stadium in France (after Marseille and Lyon). The largest stadium in the country is the national stadium ‘Stade de France’ with a capacity of just over 80,000, and is used for matches of the national team and cup finals.
The stadium has its own peculiarity, which is called ‘La Boîte ŕ Spectacles’. Half of the field can be raised and placed on the other half, which makes staging concerts and other sports such as swimming and basketball possible. The capacity of the ‘Boîte ŕ Spectacles’ can vary from 6,900 to 30,000. The Grand Stade Pierre Mauroy is classified as a five-star stadium by UEFA and held six matches during the 2016 European Championships, including one quarter-final.
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There are plenty of counters outside and inside the stadium where you can buy food or drinks. The variety to choose from is average, however, and the prices are quite expensive. Half a litre of Carlsberg beer is sold for €6.50 (low alcohol 0,5%) while various sodas are sold for €4 per half litre. A hot dog will cost you €6 and for a ham & cheese or chicken sandwich you pay €5. French fries are sold for €3.50, which to me is quite expensive for a couple of fried potatoes!
At night the stadium's exterior can be completely illuminated which makes it a great landmark for the Lille Métropole. Inside, the stadium doesn't have much character whilst empty. Although it's big and the three tiers look impressive, the choice of light and dark grey seating bowls was really a wrong one. When the Grand Stade Pierre Mauroy is sold out (just once or twice a year, against French giants Paris Saint Germain and local rivals RC Lens) there is a great atmosphere inside the ground. All seats are close to the pitch which gives the spectators a good view of the action.
The surrounding municipality lies in the southeast of Lille. The stadium itself lies in a quite remote area with only some office buildings. About one mile to the north of the stadium there is a shopping mall (Centre Commercial V2), while to the east, also one mile away, is the University of Lille.
The fans of Lille OSC are very fanatical supporters and they are unified in supporters group. The largest group is the 'Dogues Virage Est' (Dogs of the East Stand), although strangely enough this group is located in the north stand. With over 400 members and 600 card supporters this is the club's main organized supporters group. Other notable groups are Rijsel Spirit, Dogues d'Honneur, Dogues Devils and the Dogs Kings. When going to a match the large majority of the home supporters are dressed in red shirts.
The stadium can be easily reached by car. The stadium lies next to the N227 motorway at a large intersection which connects with the A1 and A27 further south and with the A22 in the north. There is limited street parking in the area of the stadium, but there are plenty of large parking lots near the stadium. Just book your parking space in advance online and print your e-ticket. The prices of the parking lots variety from €20 to €10 depending on the walking distance to the ground. Metro Line 1 stops 10 minutes' walking distance from the ground at 'Cité Scientifique' or '4 Cantons' stations.
The prices for food and drinks are rather high at the stadium, but tickets for a match of 'Les Dogues' are reasonably priced. For a regular Ligue1 match the cheapest ticket costs €15 and €40 for a top Ligue 1 match. There are different price levels for children and pensioners.
The Grand Stade Pierre Mauroy is a multifunctional arena that can be converted from a football stadium to a large or smaller concert venue, or indoor sports arena. Due to its retractable roof the events held inside the stadium can be held in all weather conditions. Like most large stadiums you can book a guided tour that lasts 60 minutes. This tour commences at Gate D. Prices for the tour are €12 for adults and €9 for teenagers aged 13 to 18, students and the disabled.
The city of Lille boasts a beautiful centre with plenty of old buildings, museums and a large old square. Many influences from Flanders can be found in the architecture of the old buildings. This is not so strange as the city of Lille is located just 10 miles from the Belgian border. When you go to the lovely city of Lille, you should really combine your city trip with an event in the stadium.
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