Tudela is the second largest city in Navarra, but with a population of just 35,000 it’s not so surprising that the senior club, Club Deportivo Tudelano, has returned relatively slim pickings. Formed in 1935 following the merger of Tudela CF, Arenas, Ancora Fordín and the fantastically named El Vegetarianos, Tudelano played their first matches at Campo de Griseras, next to the Plaza del Toros. Here they stayed until 1969, when they moved to the west of Tudela and the purpose built Estadio José Antonio Elola. The site of the old Campo de Griseras is now a primary school that bears the same name.
The new stadium was named after José Antonio Elola, the National Deputy of Physical Education and Sport. He has no obvious ties with Tudela, having been born in Argentina. However he fought for the Nationalists in the Civil War and was also Governor of Cuidad Real and Sevilla. As one of Franco’s cronies it appears that it was his turn to have something named after him. The stadium was inaugurated on 17 August 1969 with a friendly match against CA Osasuna. Tudelano opened the scoring in the second minute with a penalty from Maranhao, the club captain. Osasuna equalised in the second half and the match finished one-a-piece. At a cost of 10 million Pesetas, the stadium was a huge improvement from the basic Campo de Griseras and was the centre piece of the city’s sports centre that also included a swimming pool and covered sports centre.
What success Tudelano has experienced has been sporadic. In 1942, the club reached the play-offs for promotion to La Segunda, but lost out to Terrassa. Twelve years later, after winning the title in their section of the Tercera, Tudelano reached the play-offs for La Segunda again, but faired poorly in a group that featured Binefar, Arenas Getxo, Plus Ultra, Rayo Vallecano and Girona. The club had to wait until season 1977-78 to sample football in Segunda B, but even this was through the back door, as the league was restructured and ninth place was just high enough to secure a berth. The team was ill equiped for the higher level and the season ended in relegation back to the Tercera.
The club next won promotion to Segunda B in 1990-91 and this time it was on merit after winning their section of the Tercera. The stay in Segunda B lasted five tortuous years, with each season proving to be a battle against relegation. They finally succumbed at the end of the 1995-96 season and have not been back since. In fact the club entered a decline, failing to reach the end of season play-offs on ten consecutive seasons. This was finally rectified at the end of the 2007-08, but that and three subsequent visits have proved fruitless. They reached the final phase of the 2010-11 play-offs and faced UD San Sebastián de los Reyes for a place in the third tier, but lost out 1-3 on aggregate. Finally, after 16 seasons away, promotion to Segunda B was gained a year later and the Municipality marked the occasion by renaming the stadium the Estadio Ciudad de Tudela.
The Estadio Ciudad de Tudela is fifty years of age and it is beginning to show. The main stand is still quite impressive in a 1960’s sort of way. It has a pre-cast concrete cantilevered roof, either end of which stand two towers. In the early days these towers had flag poles atop, now there is a clutter of TV aerials and tannoy loudspeakers. I’m sure at one point they did look the part, but now they resemble the training towers you find at fire stations. The shape of the stadium is oval and on opening a gravel athletics track surrounded the pitch. This fell into disrepair and now the whole area is turfed. Eight steps of terrace curve around both ends to meet the south terrace, which was originally open, but now has three short cantilevered covers, the middle of which is higher than the other two. This is to integrate the media booths and a bar that sit at the back of the terrace on the halfway line. The area under the covers was seated following Tudelano’s promotion to Segunda B in 2012.
The stadium reminds me of a northern version of Real Linense’s municipal stadium, but without the concrete cancer! There has been talk for a number of years about moving to a new ground, but the local municipality has not had the appetite with funds being so tight. Maybe promotion will provide the impetus to build a new stadium, which would undoubtedly be cheaper than renovating this relic from the 1960’s.