After much anticipation and occasional hand wringing, the grand opening of Estadio Wanda Metropolitano is finally upon us. Atlético Madrid will open their new ground to much fanfare in a Liga Santander match against Málaga this Saturday. You can expect more pregame coverage for that match over the next day-plus, but for now let’s take a look at a stadium that began as little more than a curiosity.
Estadio de la Comunidad de Madrid was built in the early 90’s as the centerpiece in Madrid’s bid to host the 1997 World Championships in Athletics. It was built for track and field and opened for the first time in 1994. The first iteration of the stadium was notable for concentrating all its seating into a single large grandstand. The unique “comb” shaped design of that stand earned the stadium the nickname La Peineta.
Unfortunately, Madrid ultimately lost the bid for the 1997 Athletics Championships and the new stadium saw only infrequent use until 2002, when it finally fulfilled its purpose of hosting a major international track event with the 9th edition of the IAAF World Cup.
Though built primarily for track, the infield was used for soccer on a handful of occasions, most notably the second leg of the 1996 Supercopa de España. That match saw Atlético defeat Barcelona 3-1, though the Catalan club won the cup 6-5 on aggregate.
Flash forward to the 2000’s. La Peineta again received a boost from Madrid’s desire to host a major international sporting event, this time the Olympic Games. Due to its location in northern Madrid and the prevalence of open land in its proximity, the site was marked as the probable location for the Olympic Village in Madrid’s ultimately unsuccessful bids for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics.
With these bids in mind, Atlético were given permission to develop the site with the understanding that the finished stadium would be used in the Olympics. Funding for the stadium was initially to come through a deal whereby the developer was to build the new stadium in exchange for the land at the location of Atlético’s old ground, the Vicente Calderón. However, shifting economic realities have resulted Atlético paying significantly more out of pocket.
The design for the stadium was put together by architectural firm Cruz y Ortiz, who elected to incorporate the famous comb stand into the redesigned ground. You can hear directly from the designers in the video above, where they outline their vision for the stadium.
Beyond artfully maintaining the comb, the highlight of the renovation is the stunning roof design which lights up and reverberates in such a way as to enhance crowd noise. With a capacity of 68,000, the atmosphere this weekend should be electric.
Last season, Atlético were 14-2-3 at the Calderón, losing only once to a team who finished below them in the table. Hopefully, they can turn the Wanda Metropolitano into a fortress as well.