With its capacity of more than 80,000 people, the Stade de France is the largest French stadium built in France. Located in Saint-Denis, in the northern suburbs of Paris, it was specially built for the 1998 soccer world cup. Inaugurated the same year by President Jacques Chirac during the France-Spain game, the Stade de France has also been developed to host various sporting events, as well as grandiose shows and giant concerts. In this article, we will focus on the history of the Stade de France, its architecture, as well as the major dates and events that have marked the history of France’s favorite sports complex.
The Stade de France project
In 1988, a project to build a stadium in the suburbs of Paris was initiated by the then Prime Minister Jacques Chirac: France, in fact, was a candidate to organize the future soccer World Cup to be held in 1998. Several sites in the Ile-de-France region have been selected to host the project, such as Vincennes, Nanterre and Marne-la-Vallée (the town that will eventually be chosen to host the future Disneyland Paris park). In 1991, the current government chose the town of Melun, located 35 km from the capital, but Jacques Chirac, who had become Mayor of Paris, was firmly opposed to the project, refusing to finance it as it was difficult to access and too far from Paris. A few months later, FIFA validated France’s bid to host the 1998 World Cup. In return, the country must build a stadium that can accommodate up to 80,000 people. Finally, the Prime Minister Edouard Balladur confirmed in 1992 that the site selected for the construction of the new stadium would be the commune of Saint-Denis. In the same way, the realization of new infrastructures, such as the creation of 2 RER stations as well as the coverage of the A1 freeway network are envisaged. A project led by the SGE-Bouygues-Dumez Consortium and the four architects Aymeric Zublena, Michel Regembal, Claude Costantini and Michel Macary was finally selected to build the future Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Construction work began on May 2, 1995, giving Bouygues’ technical teams 31 months to complete the work.
The construction of the Stade de France and its infrastructures
One of the characteristics linked to the Stade France was the speed of execution of the construction site: only 5 months were necessary to carry out the 800,000m² of earthworks and one year to pour the 180,000 cubic meters of concrete. The construction of the Stade France also required the creation of 40,000 plans, and the installation of the roof and the mobile stand were completed in a record time of 12 months. The establishment of the Stade de France also aims at the economic development of the Plaine Saint-Denis area. Built on the former site of the Paris gas plant, this new project is accompanied by residential buildings, as well as buildings for tertiary activities and businesses. Separated by the rue Henri Delaunay and connected by a tunnel to the Stade de France, an annexed stadium with an athletics track was added to the construction. This stadium provides future teams and athletes with a second training space. To serve this new site in Seine Saint-Denis, two RER stations have been created on lines B and D, and a metro station and RATP bus connections have been added. The Stade de France is also accessible via the A1 and A86 freeways thanks to the construction of a road junction. Another characteristic of the Stade de France is its ability to evacuate quickly and without crowds, a feat made possible by the use of crowd simulation software when designing the stadium.
The architecture of the Stade de France
The roof of the Stade de France is a floating structure that rises 46 meters above the pitch and has a surface area of 6 hectares, with a total weight of 13,000 tons, equivalent to twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower.
The Stade de France is built around 3 stands:
- The low stand: this mobile stand can accommodate up to 25,000 people. The lower stand of the Stade de France can be moved back 15 meters to reveal the athletics track, while maintaining a capacity of 22,000 seats.
- The intermediate stand: located between the lower and upper stands, it can be accessed via 22 walkways.
- The upper stand: located on level 6 of the stadium, the upper stand of the Stade de France is accessible via 18 monumental staircases.
The changing rooms, initially designed by Michel Platini, are directly accessible by the players’ buses and are located at the level of the pitch. The backstage of the Stade de France is composed of :
- 2 changing rooms of 120 m² reserved for soccer and rugby players.
- 1 locker room of 400m² dedicated to athletics.
- 2 dressing rooms reserved for referees.
- 2 call rooms.
- 2 warm-up rooms.
- Offices for delegates.
- Premises for juries.
- An infirmary.
- Doping control rooms.
- Dressing rooms and lounges at the disposal of the artists.
- A rehearsal room for musicians and extras.
- A room dedicated to the storage of costumes.
- A relaxation area.
- Storage space for sets and instruments.
The playing field of the Stade de France has a total area of 15,000m². Its dimensions are 119 meters long by 75 meters wide and it includes a grassed area of 8000 m². For a better water evacuation, the ground is curved and a heating system is installed under the lawn to prevent it from freezing in winter. Since 2016, the Stade de France pitch is a so-called “hybrid” pitch, i.e. composed of natural grass and synthetic fibers, which allows to host soccer matches but also rugby matches. Every summer, the Stade de France’s lawn is also renovated at the end of the summer period, after the concert and show season.
2 new giant screens with a surface of 200 m² each were added in 2006 in order to double the projection surface of the screens installed during the 1998 World Cup. In 2008, the Stade de France also created a “celebrity promenade” around the stadium, called “Stade France Boulevard”. You can see the handprints of sportsmen and artists who have marked the history of the Stade de France since its inauguration in 1998.
Sports events and concerts at the Stade de France
Since its creation, the Stade de France has hosted numerous sporting events, concerts and major shows. One of the major events is of course the final of the 1998 soccer world cup, when France beat Brazil 3-0. The Stade de France also hosts each year the final of the French soccer cup, as well as the league cup. In 2000 and 2006, the Stade de France also hosted the final of the Champions League. The matches of the 6 nations tournament, as well as the final of the French 15-a-side rugby championship are also held there every year. In 2023, the site will be used for the Rugby 15-a-side World Cup and will host the athletics and rugby 7-a-side events during the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. Every summer, the Stade de France also hosts many non-sports events, such as concerts. The Rolling Stones were the first band to perform at the Stade de France in 1998 in front of 80,000 people. Since then, many artists, as well as French bands and international musicians, have performed at the Stade de France. Among them, we will remember :
- Johnny Hallyday (1998) (2009) (2012): the first French singer to have taken over the Stade de France on 3 occasions totals 9 performances.
- Celine Dion (1999): Celine Dion is the first woman to perform at the Stade de France, totaling 162,000 people in 2 concerts.
- U2 (2005) (2009) (2010) (2017) : The Irish group totals 7 concerts at the Stade de France, with more than half a million spectators.
- George Michael (2007): the singer came in concert on June 22, 2007 at the Stade de France.
- Madonna (2008): Madonna performs in front of 138,000 spectators in 2 concerts.
- Mylène Farmer (2009): Mylène Farmer is the first French artist to perform at the Stade de France.
- Indochine (2010)(2014)(2022) : Indochine is the second French group to perform at the Stade de France, just after the group Kassav.
- Coldplay (2012)(2017)(2022): the British group has played 8 sold-out concerts at the Stade de France. Coldplay is also the first band to perform 4 concerts in a row at the Stade de France in 2022.
- Bruce Springsteen (2013): the American artist stopped in Paris for a final concert on June 29, 2013.
Other international artists and groups such as Muse, Métallica, Dépêche Mode, Lady Gaga and Prince have performed at the Stade France since its creation.
The Stade de France in figures
- The France-Ireland match in 2009 broke the record for ticket sales by totaling 4.6 M euros.
- 7 minutes: this is the time needed to empty the stands of the Stade de France of its spectators.
- The total area of the site is 17 hectares.
- Each year, 250 corporate events are organized in the Stade de France.
- The Stade de France is 320 meters long and 280 meters wide.
- Each match at the Stade de France mobilizes nearly 1,300 stewards.
- The creation of the Stade de France has generated nearly 35,000 jobs in the Saint-Denis area.
- 173 boxes are distributed around the stadium.
- In 2022, the concert of the group Indochine recorded the record of attendance, with a total of 97 036 spectators.
We invite you to consult the website www.stadedefrance.com to organize your trip. If you wish to come by car, a parking lot is at your disposal: we advise you to reserve your place directly online before your arrival. The Stade de France also offers guided tours of its backstage areas, providing an unforgettable immersive experience. These visits allow you to discover the locker rooms, as well as the tunnel used by your favorite soccer team to access the pitch!