Abandoned Stadiums of Europe, South America, and Africa

Friday, 18th November 2011 by

With our London Olympics preview earlier this week featuring the brand new London Olympic stadium, it seems like a poignant time to explore what happens to these enormous landmarks when time eventually catches up with them. Sometimes they’re rebuilt and sometimes they’re replaced, but some stadiums just get left behind. Today we begin a two-part tour of abandoned stadiums around the world with a look at old arenas in Europe, South America, and Africa.

Above is Estadio Lluís Sitjar in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Built in 1945, for over half a century the 18,000 seat stadium was the home of football club RCD Mallorca. The stadium has sat unused since 2007, but the word 'Mallorca' can still be plainly seen spelled out in the seats. The field of play, however, is already in a sad state.

On another populous Spanish island, Gran Canaria, lies Estadio Insular, which was the home of UD Las Palmas. Built in the same year as Lluís Sitjar, the 21,000 seater was abandoned four years earlier. Grass and trees are already rooting themselves in the stands, and the walls are covered in graffiti.

Stade des Charmilles in Geneva was the site of five FIFA World Cup games in 1954. Much of the facility was dismantled in 2002 and the field is completely barren, but the grandstands remain in place. In the rival city of Zurich, the demolished Hardturm also hosted World Cup games. Satellite imagery shows the shells of the grandstand are still intact, and Street View shows the rubble surrounding it.

In Germany, Gelsenkirchen’s Parkstadion was the home of the Bundesliga’s Schalke 04 from 1973 to 2001. Since then, about one-half of the seating has been removed, but the rest remains.

The largest abandoned stadium seen on Google Maps is the Estadio Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil. Originally built to a capacity of 66,080, the stadium was expanded to a monstrous 110,000 seats in 1971. Tragedy struck Fonte Nova in 2007, when an upper terrace collapsed during a Third Division championship final, killing seven spectators and injuring forty. The stadium was immediately closed. Since this imagery was captured, Fonte Nova has been demolished.

At one point the largest arena in the Czech Republic, Brno’s Stadion Za Lužánkami has sat in state for the past decade. Not only is the old playing field easy to make out, but even the goalposts are still standing. Around the edges, though, trees up to 3 metres high have sprouted in the bleachers.

Not all abandoned stadiums are left to rot. The Dell, the former home of English side Southampton, was redeveloped as a housing estate after its 2001 closure. Not only does the estate retain the shape of the original stadium, but all of the apartment blocks are named for famous Saints players.

Naturally, there aren’t only modern abandoned arenas to be found on Google Maps. The Plaza de Toros in Cartagena, Spain has been abandoned for nearly a century. Built on top of an ancient Roman arena, the location is set to be the home of a new Roman museum. Over in Merida, this ancient amphitheatre dates all the way back to 25 BC. The gladiator pit is exposed in the middle of the arena.

We end the first part of our tour in South Africa, where in Cape Town, Greenpoint Stadium was torn down to make way for the neighbouring Cape Town Stadium in advance of the 2010 World Cup1. Here we see demolition crews working to dismantle the arena. The north grandstand, however, remains standing.

Read part two of our abandoned stadium tour: Abandoned Stadiums of the United States.

  1. We toured the stadiums of the 2010 World Cup in June 2010. ↩︎