León – La Puentecilla (Estadio Municipal Antonio Amilivia)

Is there a Spanish equivalent of Rovers or Wanderers? El Vagabundo? El Viajero? Maybe not, but Cultural Leonesa is on its seventh permanent ground in just over 90 years, not to mention three other temporary solutions they have used. Cultural y Deportiva Leonesa, to give them their full title, was founded in 1923 and started playing at El Parque, which hosted second-tier football when Cultural reached La Segunda in the 1929-30 season. Although they finished bottom of the division, Cultural picked up 5 wins & 4 draws during the 18-match campaign. In 1931 they moved to Campo Guzmán, which was situated to the west of the city, on the bank of the Rio Bernesga. It had a short 40 metre cover on the west side and a decent bank of terracing on the east side.

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Campo de Guzmán (left foreground) in the early 1930s

The area around the Campo de Guzmán was redeveloped in 1939, so the club had to leave and used the grounds at El Seu or San Mamés as it was also known, for a season. Then in 1940, Cultural moved to the southern edge of León, setting up home at La Corredera. It was here that the club reached La Segunda for a second time in 1942, after squeezing past Valladolid & Racing Santander in a tight playoff group. Cultural was relegated to the Tercera at the end of the 1944-45 campaign, following three mediocre finishes. The club had to sell La Corredera and move to the smaller Campo El Ejido in 1948. El Ejido was literally up the road from La Corredera, with just 15 metres separating the enclosures at their closest points.

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La Corredera & Campo El Ejido pictured in 1947

Back in the Tercera, Cultural struggled to make progress until Antonio Amilivia arrived as president. The club returned to La Segunda in 1953-54 and secured their highest final placing of fourth, In the following season, Cultural achieved promotion to La Primera when they finished first in Group 1 of the regionalised La Segunda. This presented a massive problem for the club, as even by 1950’s standards, El Ejido was simply not up to hosting top-flight football. Luckily the Municipality took the initiative and in what must have seemed like a scene from an Amish chapel build, constructed a new ground at La Puentecilla in little over three months. The league allowed Cultural to play its first three home fixtures of the 1955-56 campaign at El Ejido, and they saw El Ejido off in style with a 3-0 victory over Valencia on 9 October 1955.

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Action from El Ejido in 1954

Two weeks later, on 23 October 1955, 27,427 spectators watched Cultural play Athletic Bilbao in the first match at La Puentecilla, and although Athletic won 1-3, the club collected over 1 million pesetas at the gate and this remains the highest attendance in the club’s history. Regrettably, the stay in La Primera was a short one, one season to be precise. Cultural’s record of 5 wins, 4 draws and 21 defeats has secured its place at the foot the Clasificación histórica de Primera División.

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La Puentecilla – Built in 90 days

The club remained in La Segunda until 1962, before dropping back to the Tercera. Cultural returned to La Segunda at the beginning of the 1970’s, which also saw the stadium renamed in honour of Antonio Amilivia. Cultural finished fifth in La Segunda in 1971-72, but by 1975 were back in the Tercera. La Puentecilla would see out its remaining two decades in the third & fourth tiers, by which time its capacity had been capped at 12,844.

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La Puentecilla served as Cultural Leonesa’s home for 43 years

The main stand at La Puentecilla was a single tier of seating with a low propped cantilevered roof and very similar in style to the old stand at Pontevedra’s Pasaron stadium. The remaining three sides were made up of decently sized terraces, and behind the north terrace stood a tower which also incorporated a scoreboard. On 31 October 1998, Barakaldo was defeated 4-1 in the last match at the ground. La Puentecilla and its surrounding tenements were soon demolished, but all memories of the old stadium have not been erased. The Calle La Puentecilla, a nondescript suburban street, follows the line of the north terrace and its grand old tower.

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The end is nigh! – 1995 and La Puentecilla is on borrowed time

The municipality had plans for a new stadium a mile or so west of La Puentecilla close to the banks of the Rio Bernesga, but this was still at the planning stage, so for the better part of 3 seasons, the club played at Deportiva de Puente Castro. This was far from ideal as it offered basic facilities for fans and even less in the way of cover in what can be the coldest region in Spain. The Deportiva de Puente Castro maximum capacity of 4,600 and Cultural played its final first-team fixture at the ground on 13 May 2001, beating Real Unión 2-0. Victory confirmed Cultural’s position at the end of season playoffs and a week later they hosted Xerez at the brand new Estadio Reino de León.

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