This impressive stadium replaced the lovable, but rather rickety Campo de Futbol de Las Gaunas. When work originally started on the Estadio Nuevo Las Gaunas back in 1997, Club Deportivo Logroñés had just been relegated from La Primera, having spent nine of the previous ten seasons at the top level. The build was a tiresome affair with the municipality hitting problems with the finances. By the time the stadium finally opened on 28 February 2002, CD Logroñés was in Segunda B. Still, they had enough nous to beat the then La Primera outfit of Deportivo Alaves by 2 goals to one in front of a full house of 16,000. Three days later, CD Logroñés lost 0-1 to Zaragoza B in the first official match and since then, the fortunes of football in La Rioja have plummeted.
With CD Logroñés in terminal decline, a second club from Logroño tried its hand at becoming the city’s leading club. Founded in 2000 with the specific aim of toppling the ailing team and playing its home matches at Mundial 82, Club Deportivo Recreación de La Rioja quickly worked its way through the regional leagues. In 2003-04 the clubs paths crossed with Recreación’s promotion to Segunda B, by which time they were co-tenants of the municipality at Nuevo Las Gaunas. The two matches in 2003-04 season were close affairs, each ending in an “away” victory. At the end of the season however, the gap was considerable with Recreación finishing fifth and CD Logroñés in a lowly fifteenth. Things were to get much worse for CD Logroñés as unpaid debts saw them demoted to the Tercera. Recreación was now the city’s top team in terms of league placing, if not support and in an attempt to forge a closer identity with the city, changed its name on 29 July 2005 to Logroñés Club de Fútbol. It did not have the desired effect, and with attendances dropping even further and debts growing, the club could not repeat its early promise.
CD Logroñés battled back to win promotion to Segunda B for the 2006-07 season and was pitched against their upstart rivals. Once again they were close affairs with CD winning their “home” fixture 2-1 and CF prevailing by one goal to nil in their fixture. Logroñés CF finished four places and five points above CD Logroñés at the seasons end, but two mid-table finishes were nothing to get excited about. The 2007-08 season started well enough, but by the season’s end senior football in Logroño was in turmoil. Both games between the clubs ended in stalemate and whilst CD Logroñés took the upper hand in final league placings, it was a hollow victory. Logroñés CF finished in seventeenth place and would have been relegated, but during the summer, with debts too high to contemplate football in the Tercera, the club folded. CD Logroñés finished in thirteenth place, but once again failed to pay their players and was demoted to the Tercera with debts of over €400,000. They stumbled on for a few months of the 2008-09 season and only nine players took the field on 4 January 2009 for their match against CD Arnedo. Two weeks later the Riojana Football Federation demoted the club to the Regional Preferente, and after that the club just fizzled out. In August 2009, with debts still outstanding, the club finally bit the dust.
Whilst all of this financial mismanagement was going on, across the city a small club was about to break into the semi-big time. Club Deportivo Varea played at the Campo de Fútbol Municipal de Varea in the north-east of the city and in 2008-09 won the Tercera title. After disposing of Cerro de Reyes in the play-off finals, Varea was primed to play in Segunda B for the first time. That was until entrepreneur Felix Revuelta Aguado smelt an opportunity and made Varea an offer it couldn’t refuse. He bought their place in Segunda B for his own manufactured team. On 24 June 2009 Unión Deportiva Logroñés was founded and took up its place in the third tier, whilst CD Varea continued in the Tercera. Results for the new club have not been too shabby, with a few top ten finishes in Segunda B. 2012 saw the promotion of another team from the city to Segunda B. Sociedad Deportiva Logroñés moved from their small Mundial 82 stadium, and are now co-tenants at the Nuevo Las Gaunas. Have either club learnt from the demise of the city’s other teams? Well, only time will tell.
The Estadio Nuevo Las Gaunas is only a couple of hundred yards south of the old Campo Las Gaunas, but it might as well be a world away. Architect Antonio Lamela has designed a stadium that is bright, comfortable and uniform throughout. In short, everything that the old Campo de Fútbol was not. Built at a cost of €20 million, the municipality deserve credit for sticking to their guns, when financial constraints could have lead to considerable downscaling of the project. It is a simple, but effective design, with four stands square to the pitch linked at 45 degrees by corner units. Each stand consists of a single tier, but the illusion of two levels is created by using red seats on the lower and white seats on the upper half of the seating. This colour configuration is reversed on the corner units. At the back of three of the stands is a line of corporate boxes, that make way for media booths on the west side.
The red roof is unusually high, a deliberate design that allows another tier of 6,000 seats to be incorporated should the need arise. Frankly, that seems extremely unlikely as the only three sell-out crowds since the opening fixture have involved La Selección. On 16 October 2002, Spain were held to a 0-0 draw by Paraguay. Nearly nine years later on 6 September 2011, the national team made up for that stalemate by beating Liechtenstein 6-0 in a Euro 2012 Qualifier. Then in October 2015, Spain beat Luxembourg 4-0. It is a great shame that this superb little stadium only gets to appear on the national stage once every few years or so, but it seems that the Estadio Nuevo Las Gaunas was just built in the wrong place at the wrong time.