The Stade de Gerland, Lyon’s historic stadium since 1926
Inaugurated in 1926, the Stade de Gerland is a 35,000-seat sporting venue located in the southern part of Lyon’s 7th arrondissement, more precisely in the neighborhood of Gerland, whose name is taken from.
Home of the Olympique Lyonnais for 65 years, starting at the club’s inception in 1950, the Stade de Gerland is now the home of the Lyon Olympique Universitaire, or LOU, the city’s professional rugby team.
The Stade de Gerland, a rich history tied to Lyon’s sports teams
At first, the stadium was meant to be a sporting area
Famous Lyon’s architect, Tony Garnier, was in charge of the stadium’s construction during the 1910s in order to provide a sporting area for the international exhibif of 1914.
Unfortunately, World War I stopped the project initiated by Lyon’s mayor at the time, Edouard Herriot. The construction resumed in the 1920s and Edouard Herriot inaugurated the Stade de Gerland in 1926, which ended up being an omnisports venue equipped with an athletics track and velodrome.
The four massive entry archs erected by Tony Garnier were classified as historical monuments in 1967.
The LOU Rugby, today’s resident team
Home of the Olympique Lyonnais since 1950, the LOU Rugby inherited of the Stade de Gerland in 2017 after the departure of Lyon’s professional football team for the brand new Groupama Stadium, in the suburban town of Décines-Charpieu.
Consequently, the Stade de Gerland was renamed « Matmut Stadium Gerland » thanks to the naming rights attached to the new resident team, for a total amount of 20 million euros (2 million euros per year over a period of 10 years).
The name of Gerland remains because of its high symbolic value.
The Stade de Gerland in the middle of Lyon’s largest sporting complex
The Stade de Gerland is the centerpiece of Lyon’s largest sporting complex of the same name in the 7th arrondissement.
With the Olympique Lyonnais gone at the end of 2015, Lyon’s professional rugby team, LOU Rugby, picked up the exclusive use of the Stade de Gerland at the beginnning of the 2017 season.
Major sporting events highlighted the Stade de Gerland
Over the course of its history, the Stade de Gerland hosted major sporting and cultural events.
The football pedigree brought by the Olympique Lyonnais helped the stadium to receive the 1984 European Cup as well as six games of the 1998 World Cup, including a quarterfinal.
The game of rugby also highlighted the Stade de Gerland history before the LOU Rugby’s arrival. The 2007 World Cup stopped for three games in Lyon and the Champions Cup final, main European rugby cup, was held in 2017.
Michael Jackson and the Pope as part of the stadium’s main cultural events
Major concerts took place in the Stade de Gerland.
The Rolling Stones (1982), Pink Floyd (1994), Genesis (1992 and 2007), Johnny Hallyday (2009) and Michael Jackson (1997) performed in Lyon’s main stadium at the time.
The Pope Jean Paul II famously spent 4 days in Lyon in 1986, during which he held a massive liturgy in front of 55,000 people inside the Stade de Gerland.
The main figures of the Stade de Gerland
Tony Garnier, famous designer of the stadium
The architect and urbanist Tony Garnier, one of the most iconic figures in Lyon’s history, designed the Stade de Gerland in response to an order of a 25,000-seat sporting venue from Lyon’s mayor, Edouard Herriot.
Tony Garnier inspired himself from antique circus and realized an oval-shaped stadium with four monumental entry doors in the form of archs, classified as historical monuments in 1967.
Today’s version of the stadium still features a circular concourse around the stadium, to remind the antique inspiration of the building.
An athletics track and a velodrome equipped the stadium in the first decade, before disappearing along the few renovations.
Tony Garnier’s footprint over Lyon can be admired through other buildings. Notably, the architect originated the slaughterhouse of La Mouche, which was transformed in 1988 into the Tony Garnier concert hall, located in the close vicinity of the stadium, in Lyon’s 7th arrondissement.
René Gagès and Albert Constantin, architects of the stadium’s renovations
Except for the entry archs, the Stade de Gerland was subject to many developments and renovations that drastically changed the omnisports identity imagined by Tony Garnier.
The architect René Gagès led the construction of the two grandstands in the 1980s, for the 1984 European Cup. The metallic structures are build closer to the football pitch after the progressive removal of the velodrome and the athletics track.
But the more drastic changes happened thanks to Albert Constantin in 1998 for the World Cup in France. The Stade de Gerland obtained its two turns with recognizable roofs in the shape of archs.
Albert Constantin was again involved in the last renovation in 2017, dedicated to the new stadium for the LOU Rugby. The grandstands were rebuilt completely to offer wider seats and a closer view adapted to the game of rugby, without loosing the stadium’s identity.
The Olympique Lyonnais, resident team for 65 years
The Stade de Gerland was the historical home of the Olympique Lyonnais.
Lyon’s professional football team played in the stadium since its creation in 1950, before migrating to the Groupama Stadium after 65 years, in 2017. The Stade de Gerland was part of the team’s best years, including the stretch of 7 consecutive French championships from 2002 to 2008.
On September 9th, 1980, the Stade de Gerland reached its record capacity with an audience of 48 552 fans for the derby between the Olympique Lyonnais and St-Etienne.
The LOU Rugby, today’s resident team
Following the departure of the Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon’s professional rugby team, the Lyon Olympique Universitaire or LOU, became the Stade de Gerland resident team at the start of the 2017 season.
The club performed the last renovations to date in order to adapt the stadium for rugby. The maximum capacity dropped to 35,033, but the turns are usually closed for rugby games. The average audience oscillates between 15,000 and 25,000, depending on the tickets sales.
The LOU Rugby also brought a naming partnership to the Stade de Gerland for the first time in the stadium’s history, which is now called the « Matmut Stadium Gerland ».
Where is the Stade de Gerland?
Main attraction of the Gerland neighborhood
The Stade de Gerland was completed in the southern part of Lyon’s 7th arrondissement, within the neighborhood of the same name. It represented an extension to the east side of the Rhône river, largely inoccupied at the time of the construction in the 1920s.
The largest sporting complex then came into life around the stadium, featuring one of Lyon’s biggest parks, the city’s skatepark, playgrounds and another stadium, the Palais des Sports.
How to get to the Stade de Gerland by car?
You can get to the Stade de Gerland by car, using two different routes.
Coming from the north and west, the stadium can be reached from Lyon’s highway, exiting at the « Musée des Confluences » interchange and then driving towards the Tony Garnier concert hall and the Tony Garnier avenue.
Beware, there is no actual parking structure at the Stade de Gerland. You would have to park along the streets and it might be difficult to find a parking spot on gamedays.
How to get to the Stade de Gerland by public transportation?
The easiest way to reach the Stade de Gerland is through public transportation.
The metro line B stops at Stade de Gerland, less than 100 meters away from the stadium’s entry. The same metro line goes through the Part-Dieu train station and it takes you 10 minutes to reach the stadium’s gates.
The Presqu’île is only 10 minutes away from the stadium, by taking the metro line D from Bellecour and switching to the metro line B in Saxe-Gambetta.
It also takes you 15 minutes from the Grange Blanche station if you take the metro line D and hop on the metro line B at the Saxe-Gambetta station.