One look around the old Campo de Fútbol de Las Gaunas and you could practically chart the progress of the then resident club, CD Logroñés. Such was the haphazard development of the ground, that a total of 6 covers and two open terraces made up the stadium, each added at different phases in the club’s rise through the leagues. I first clapped eyes on Las Gaunas in the early 1990s. These were pre-internet and Sky TV days, so if you wanted to watch Spanish football from the comfort of your own home, you needed to improvise. Thanks to a bit of aerial wiggling and re-tuning I could pick up S4C’s coverage of La Liga on Sgorio, a highlights package that aired at some unearthly hour on a Monday. Needless to say, the Campo de Fútbol de Las Gaunas caught my bleary eyes.
Las Gaunas was no ordinary football ground. At a time when stadium uniformity was gaining momentum, this was a football ground that seemed to have been made up as they went along, a sort of Spanish equivalent to Oxford United’s Manor Ground. But, let’s take you back in time, to 1924 in fact, when the original Club Deportivo Logroño left their basic Campo de La Trilladora or Las Chiribitas in the east of the city, for a more suitable field to the south. The field was owned by the Gaona sisters, but this was soon distorted to Las Gaunas and it staged its first match on 15 June 1924 when French side, Vie au Grand Air du Medoc was defeated 3-0. Due to the fact that there was no football federation in La Rioja, CD Logroño joined the Guipuzcoan league in the late 1920s and even reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey in 1931. The club was struggling financially (a recurrent theme for football in Logroño) and even though it was invited to take part in an expanded second division Championship in 1934, it folded after completing just three of its 16 fixtures.
Senior football returned to Logroño in 1940, with the formation of Club Deportivo Logroñés and although it’s the initial season in the Tercera ended in demotion, the club returned to the third tier in 1943, winning the league, but not promotion. The club finally earned promotion to La Segunda in 1950, when a second place finish saw it enter the playoffs. Here they prevailed alongside UD Huesca and debuted in La Segunda in 1950-51. Las Gaunas, which was essentially a fenced-off field with a 20-metre stand, was among the most basic grounds in the second tier, but that didn’t stop the club from impressing. The 1951-52 season saw Logroñés finish second and enter the playoffs for a place in La Primera. The club eventually finished fifth out of six in the playoff group, but keen to keep progressing, they built a terrace at the southern end of the ground in 1954. Their tenure in La Segunda came to an end in 1957 amid another financial crisis, that had even seen them become an affiliated club of Real Valladolid for one season. Logroñés dropped to the Tercera and here they stayed for much of the 1960s, apart for a season-long sojourn in La Segunda in 66-67.
Las Gaunas was still very rudimentary, but having been purchased by the municipality in 1962, the stadium started to see some changes. Narrow propped covers were added over the steps next to the Preferencia and north end of the ground, and floodlights were switched on with a friendly against Elche in 1969. All of the changes were made in time for the club’s return to La Segunda, that was achieved thanks to a stunning season in the Tercera, where Logroñés scored 120 goals and eventually beat Hercules 3-1 in the play-off final at the Santiago Bernabeu. Following a sixth-place finish in 1972, the municipality built the Fondo General on the east side of the ground, which was a large covered terrace with a capacity of 5,000. However, more financial problems were just around the corner and the club fell into the Tercera in 1973 with debts of over 22 million pesetas. They were saved from extinction by Lázaro Carasa, who paid off the debt and remained president for much of the 1970s. A Tercera title in 1977-78 earned the club promotion to Segunda B and here they remained until 1984 when promotion to La Segunda saw Logroñés embark on the most exciting journey in the club’s history.
It had been eleven years since Logroñés had last played in the second division and whilst much had changed on the playing front, little if anything had happened to Las Gaunas. After two seasons of relative consolidation, Logroñés mounted a push for promotion in what proved to be one of Spanish football’s most convoluted seasons. After finishing third at the end of the regular 34 match season, the club entered the playoffs and in the tenth and final match, overcame already promoted Valencia by a goal to nil at Las Gaunas. This earned the club a place in La Primera for the first time, but if the team were good enough for the top flight, Las Gaunas was certainly not up to the job.
The summer of 1987 witnessed a period of frantic building at the old stadium as a variety of stands and covers were erected. The north terrace lost its shallow cover and behind it grew an all-seated stand, whose roof was supported by thin props at the front. A similar, albeit smaller stand, was erected on the west side, to the right of the original Preferencia, under which were housed new changing facilities. The west side’s compendium of covers was completed when the small cantilevered cover, that was originally added in the late sixties, received a re-fit. The first season in La Primera was successfully navigated with a 13th place finish and during the summer of 1988, the rebuilding continued. Las Gaunas most striking stand was saved for the southern end, where a tall, 40 metre-wide seated Fondo was erected behind the existing terrace. All of the new stands and the upper reaches of the Fondo General were bedecked in red & white seats, giving the ground capacity of 14,825.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Las Gaunas was a permanent fixture on the La Liga schedule, and quite a challenge it was too. Not only was the team very competitive, finishing as high as seventh in 1989-90, but Las Gaunas was a tightly packed, intimidating arena, thanks in no small part to the club’s notorious ultras. It is hard to believe when you look at the current state of football in Logroño, but CD Logroñés was held up as a model for smaller clubs to follow. The magic ran out in 1994-95 when the team was simply outclassed, finishing bottom of La Primera with just 13 points. President Marcos Eguizábal had one more trick up his sleeve, however, hiring a young and unproven Juande Ramos, who guided the club back to the top flight with a second place finish in La Segunda. There would be no new dynasty in the top flight and CD Logroñés once again finished bottom of La Primera table in 96-97. Back in the second division and under new ownership, the club struggled to compete, then in December 1999 the club entered administration and the scale of the problem became apparent. CD Logroñés had debts of 800 million pesetas, and with the sum still outstanding at the end of the 99-00 season, the club suffered relegation and demotion, leaving them in the Tercera, just over three years after leaving the first division.
The municipality had started work in 1997 on a new stadium, just to the south of Las Gaunas, but uncertainty over the financing and the fact that there might not be a club to play in the new arena led to delays in construction. CD Logroñés did its best to get back on an even footing, returning to Segunda B in 2001, but doubts remained over the club’s financial viability, even though the municipality had completed work on the Estadio Nuevo Las Gaunas. The old Campo de Fútbol de Las Gaunas saw its final game on 17 February 2002, when the hosts beat CE L’Hospitalet by a goal to nil in front of a crowd of just 3,000. The club may only have headed a couple of hundred metres south to the new ground, but it was a journey full of uncertainty, that would ultimately lead to its demise in 2009.