At the Groupama Stadium near Lyon, football and music share the field

January 9, 2016

At the Groupama Stadium near Lyon, football and music share the field

January 9, 2016. After ten years of a winding journey marked by multiple administrative appeals from opponents of the project, the Lyon Olympic Park is inaugurated in Décines-Charpieu, around twenty kilometers from the historic Gerland stadium in Lyon. A few months before the Euro, France is therefore enriched with a vast arena that can accommodate nearly sixty thousand spectators at an estimated cost of 405 million euros. Designed by the American architecture firm Populous, specializing in sports infrastructures, since December 2023 it has had a new neighbor: the LDLC Arena, a brand new sports hall. In both places, we certainly play ball in all its forms, but we also keep our ears open during concerts.

In contemporary stadiums, like the newly named Groupama Stadium, sport now constitutes a spectacle like any other. The day the OL group, owner of the complex, went public in 2007, its CEO, Jean-Michel Aulas, recognized it: “We are not a football club but an entertainment holding company. » A positioning which marked the culmination of an already long-standing enterprise, according to Xavier Pierrot, deputy general director of OL. “Jean-Michel Aulas took over the club in the second division in 1987, he quickly made it progress and structured it like a first division company,” he assures.

Declaration of general interest

Continuing to develop the football team at the Gerland stadium was therefore no longer compatible with this logic of profitability: started before the Great War, finally completed in 1920, the stadium was classified as a historic monument in 1967, which made all complicated expansion work. In 2008, Gérard Collomb, the mayor of the city of Lyon, suggested that the club buy land to the east of the city, in Décines-Charpieu, a still rural area dotted with small houses. Houses which are today the direct neighbors of Groupama Stadium.

André Dargaud was part of the collective of local residents who fought for a long time against the construction of the new stadium, anticipating “nuisance, traffic, traffic jams, pollution…”. “As citizens,” he comments, “we were disturbed that public authorities were spending several hundred million euros and selling land well below market prices to serve private interests. » The case was taken to court and quickly took on a national political dimension. To the point that the mayor of Lyon had an amendment passed in the National Assembly for the stadium to be declared “of general interest”.

“From my garden, we can see the stadium, and especially its lights,” Mr. Dargaud notes fatalistically today. He also hears what's going on there, especially during the summer break, when the ball gives way to guitars. “As soon as the last match is over, we dismantle the seats and create large staircases which will allow the public to go from the passageways to the pitch,” explains Mr. Pierrot, manager of Groupama Stadium and the LDLC Arena. Then the stadium groundskeepers remove the grass, and metal plates are placed so that the trucks can drive on them. Secondly, we set up the scenes with the sound and light structures. »

“A week of editing for three hours of concert”

Going from sport to music is a colossal technical challenge which is coupled with a challenge: guaranteeing minimum acoustic quality. “A stadium is not originally made to accommodate music. Many spectators are disappointed by the quality of the concerts because of the high price of tickets and the sound which is not satisfactory, recognizes Nicola Sirkis, the leader of the group Indochine, who stopped at Décines-Charpieu during his tour of summer 2022. So we do the best we can with the technical teams, sound engineers, etc. » “A concert in a stadium takes almost two years to prepare,” adds the singer. More than a thousand people on the installation, including four hundred on the big day, eighty trucks on the move, teams working three shifts... There is a week of assembly for three hours of concert, then three days of dismantling. And it’s not because we’re in a stadium that we’re not communicating with the public. There are moments of grace! »

On June 25, 2022, the French group brought together more than seventy-two thousand fans during a single evening under the stadium spotlights and under the stars. Coldplay, Rammstein, Taylor Swift will take the stage at Groupama Stadium in 2024. At the LDLC Arena, it was the British Sting who inaugurated OL's other "entertainment" space on December 13, 2023, a venue intended to accommodate all year round, warm and dry, both artists and basketball, tennis, futsal matches… “We can organize concerts there in much more intimate configurations with better acoustics” , rejoices Mr. Pierrot. A very relative intimacy: this winter evening, the ex-Police singer had a full house with some twelve thousand spectators in heaven.

Season 3 of the “Archi interesting” podcast is produced on the occasion of the exhibition “Once upon a time the stadiums”, presented from March 20 to September 16, 2024 at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine.