Athletic Bilbao Stadium: A new San Mames in place of the old one
What was the first home ground of Athletic Bilbao?
Athletic Bilbao were founded in 1898, but they didn’t play in an actual home stadium until 1913. The first home ground of Athletic was San Mames Stadium, which was also known as La Catedral, based in Bilbao city. It is considered the oldest Spanish football stadium.
Estadio San Mames 1913
The San Mames had an initial capacity of 40,000 and was mostly covered by Spanish supporters. The inaugural match in the San Mames was a friendly against Racing Club de Irun in August 1913, while the last match before the closure of this stadium was a farewell friendly game against Biscay XI.
It was also one of many stadiums chosen for the 1982 FIFA World Cup, with detailed fixtures listed on the table below:
What is the current home stadium of Athletic Bilbao?
The first proposal to build a new stadium in place of the old San Mames started in March 2006. The plan was to increase the capacity of the stadium to 53,000. Four years later, on 26 May 2010, the old San Mames was demolished and the first brick of the new stadium was made.
Despite the country's economic woes at the time, particularly among the Basque people, public institutions paid 52.6% of the total €211 million (£178 million) cost of the stadium - some by the Basque Government (€50 million), some by the Bilbao City Council (€11 million), and some by the Biscay Provincial Council (€50 million including land), as well as Athletic (€50 million including land) and BBK.
The New San Mames was officially in use on 16 September 2013, after more than three years under construction. Athletic’s new home has a capacity of 53,289, making it the largest stadium in Basque Country as well as the 8th-largest stadium in Spain. However, until 25 August 2014, almost a year after its opening for the first phase, the stadium was completed.
The New San Mames
The stadium has a sophisticated lighting system on the outside that can be set to exhibit solid colors or flashing or moving images on the hundreds of panels on its facade (which are white during the day) (such as when a goal is scored, or the UEFA Champions League star-ball motif when Athletic qualified for that competition). It is comparable to the Allianz Arena in Munich in this regard.
Since 2015, the stadium has also had a huge external video screen (15.5m X 9.8m), which has been put in a prominent location near where the previous San Mamés had a large club crest.
After eight years of existence so far, the New San Mames only made one adjustment to their structure. It was a roof extension that was made at the end of the 2015-16 season and the beginning of the 2016-17 season. This renovation was meant to cover all the seats from rainy days so that supporters can have more pleasure when watching their favorite clubs.
The recorded cost was €12.6 million and the San Mames's roof extension was done on 20 November 2016. The internal lighting system was also set up to cope with the lack of sunlight onto the pitch that was caused by the extension of the roof.
The roof extension on the New San Mames
Since the inception of the new stadium, there have been many events and games from domestic to continental and international fields. Not only football but other sports like rugby, women’s football, or music concerts.
One of the most major and prestigious competitions in the New San Mames was the Euro 2020. Athletic’s home ground was chosen as one of the 13 stadiums for the UEFA Euro 2020. The venue was scheduled to host a total of four Euro games, including three group stage matches and one Round of 16 game.
However, the tournament was postponed and the stadium was also replaced by another stadium Estadio de La Cartuja in the capital of Spain. To offset this withdrawal for the Euro 2020 hosting rights, the New San Mames was chosen for the 2024 UEFA Women’s Champions League Final and the 2025 UEFA Europa League Final.