One of French football’s traditional footballing sides FC Nantes are based at the Stade de La Beaujoire in the north-east of the French city. And, if you have ever been around the world in eighty days looking at football stadiums, it is unlikely that you will come across that many modern football arenas which look like the home of Nantes.
A combination of daring concrete design and 1980’s practical convenience the interiors and exteriors of stadium have a sweeping green-grey-yellow appearance which immediately gives off to visitors the vibe of the Poljud home of Hajduk Split or the Swedish Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg.
Yes, neither the Croats or the Swedes play in yellow and green but in shape, feel and design there are stark similarities.
In the best interests of honouring one of its most famous sons the main stand at FC Nantes is traditionally still referred to as the Tribune Jules Verne although the stadium itself is still more commonly associated with the former President Louis Fonteneau.
Named after the district in which it is located La Beaujoire was inaugurated in May 1984 for an international football match between Romania and Nantes. Not a month later the UEFA European Championships were hosted at the venue where amongts other ties the match between Belgium and France was played.
Given Nantes continued growth and the consistent level of club performance in the French league system over recent years the current Nantes owner Waldemar Kita still remains committed to building a new stadium. A further executive committment to a new build stadium came towards the end of 2019 despite the high profile cancellation of the previous ‘yellopark’ project.
Meanwhile, resistance to a new Nantes stadium has come from local municipal authorities and via vocal opposition from elements of the large supporter base.
Any new stadium in Nantes has been projected to cost between €160 – €200 million euro, and is being driven by Waldemar Kita the Polish millionaire and owner of Nantes. In 2007, Kita bought Ligue 1 club Nantes (without a domestic trophy since 2001) reportedly for €10 million euros.
Among the most vocal opponents of a move are fans of FC Nantes who have accused Kita of using the club as a financial play thing and as a branded ‘investment’.
Previously owner of Lausanne in Switzerland, an active group of Nantes fans have spoken out against the owner and questioned the true motivations behind his stadium development narrative. The perception of many is of the club owner’s desire to turn or rebrand FC Nantes into FC Kita i.e. that Nantes with the move to a new stadium are up ‘for sale’ to a consortium of investors.
These suspicions have deepened with the release recently of a new branded simplistic club logo. Gone from the badge is the historic carrack ship and instead the club have chosen to preserve its identity in the historical colors of yellow and green. The colours are integrated with the ‘N’ of Nantes and a single minimalistic ermine heraldic logo. The new design is what the club call a new ‘anchoring’ of the club’s identity in an extensive and increasing ‘global marketplace’.
While there is no doubt the current stadium in Nantes requires significant improvements in order to meet 21st century needs it is questionable whether the club actually requires a new stadium either to fulfill its operational obligations or to progress on the field of play.
In terms of exteriors and interiors there is great character at La Beaujoire but certain aspects of the ground do look shabby and out of date.
However, Nantes fans have questioned the need for such financial investment given the club have not featured in European football since 2004 (UEFA Intertoto Cup). Moreover, they are without a domestic trophy since a 2001 Coupe de France cup success.
Also amongst those speaking out vocally is the stadium’s original architect Berdje Agopyan. Agopyan was an assistant who worked on the Parc des Princes development and has decided to take a stance AGAINST a new Nantes stadium.
Specifically he has questioned the build price quoted and pointed at the actual cost of building such a stadium which he feels will be €200 million euros more than currently stated; in his words any new Nantes stadium is a stadium that will cost ‘€40,000 euros per seat’.