In October 2001, the Ayuntamiento de Lorca started work on a new stadium some 5km to the south of the city centre. This could have been viewed as a massive leap of faith, given the history of Lorca’s resident clubs had been at best, underwhelming. However, the ageing Estadio de San José stood on land in a scruffy part of town that was earmarked for regeneration, and a new stadium and training facilities, albeit out of town, had its attractions. So, on 5 March 2003, Lorca Deportiva CF played Barcelona in a friendly to mark the opening of the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco.
Lorca Deportiva used the new stadium as a springboard, as following promotion to Segunda B, the club finished second, only losing out in the play-offs to Pontevedra CF. The following season saw former player Unai Emery installed as coach and a fourth place finish and the defeat of Real Unión in the play-offs earned the club promotion to La Segunda. Determined not to go the way of its only predecessor that reached the second division, the club invested in new talent and stood mid-table at the halfway point. It then went on a run of results that saw it climb the league and with four matches to play, Lorca Deportiva occupied the last promotion place. However, with Levante UD gaining ground, president Baños accused them of bribing the opposition. This seemed to have a greater impact on his own club, and as Lorca stumbled, Levante snatched the final promotion spot. Emery left for Almeria in the summer of 2006, and the club went into a steep decline. Relegated to Segunda B in 2007, the club’s debts were spiralling out of control, and in a strikingly similar set of circumstances to Lorca CF, the club reached the 2008-09 play-offs despite not paying its players. The wages remained unpaid and the club was demoted to the Tercera at the end of the season. The club was finally wound up on 18 October 2010 with debts of 3.4 million euros
There followed another short-lived attempt at bringing footballing success to the city when Lorca Atlético Club De Futbol was formed. In the summer of 2010 club president Cristóbal Sánchez Arcas bought fellow Murcian’s Sangonera Atlético and moved them to the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco. The club endured a tight battle against relegation, earning a point in the final game of the season to ensure safety. That point came just four days after an earthquake shook the centre of Lorca. Alas, Lorca Atlético succumbed to relegation at the end of the 2011-12, losing out to CF Palencia in the Relegation Play-offs. The old problem of failing to pay the players reared its ugly head, and following a further administrative relegation in June 2012, Lorca Atlético joined the ever expanding list of failed Lorquino clubs. The next club to try it’s luck at the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco was La Hoya Lorca Club de Fútbol, who by admittedly low standards had longevity and on their side, having been founded in 2003. They hail from La Hoya, a small town 6 miles north-east of Lorca and played at the Campo de Fútbol de Los Tollos until the demise of Lorca Atlético, when the club took on the jinxed mantle of Lorca’s senior team.
In 2016, La Hoya Lorca Club de Fútbol changed its name to Lorca Fútbol Club when it was bought by former Chinese international player and manager Xu Genbao. In November of 2016, the league match with another Chinese-owned club, FC Jumilla, was broadcast live over the internet in China. Under new ownership, Lorca CF thrived, winning their group in Segunda B and then defeating Albacete Balompié to earn a place in La Segunda. Even before the 2018-19 season started, rumours were circulating that the club would sell its place in the second tier to Hércules CF for €9m. In the end, Lorca CF did “compete” in that season’s Segunda, but was woefully under-prepared and finished 15 points from safety. Worse was to follow when the club failed to meet the necessary financial commitments set by the RFEF, and was demoted to the Tercera. Three seasons of diminishing returns followed, and at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, Lorca CF find themselves in the Regional Preferente, or level 6 of the Spanish football pyramid.
Running parallel to the rise of La Hoya Lorca Club de Fútbol, was the creation of Club de Fútbol Lorca Deportiva. This club was founded in 2012 after the dissolution of Lorca Atlético, by supporters who wanted an alternative to supporting La Hoya Lorca CF, who at that point were not playing in the city. They started the 2012-13 season in the Primera Autonómica, or sixth tier, but within 5 years had earned promotion to Segunda B. Unfortunately that first season in the third tier ended in relegation, but the club re-grouped and a second Tercera title followed in 2020. Lorca Deportiva’s second visit to Segunda B ended once again in relegation, and they will play the 2020-21 season in the Tercera, or level 5.
The Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco takes its name from the Preseident of Club Deportivo Lorca (1950s version) who was instrumental in the building of the old Estadio de San José. The whole complex was funded thanks to an urban development agreement that saw the local council build the stadium and its annexes in return for the land on which the Estadio de San José stood. Designed by Cristino Guerra and built by Construcciones Giner at a cost of €3.5m euros, it looks like a shrink-wrapped version of the Estadio Colombino that opened a year earlier in Huelva. It’s 8120 blue and white seats are arranged over three open banks and a 3,180 seat main tribuna. In addition to hosting Barcelona in the opening match, within the opening month, Lorca Deportiva played Águilas CF in a league match, Atlético Madrid in a friendly, whilst the Spainish U21 team also played Australia. Three further pitches make up the complex, the first of which, the Campo Juan Martínez Casuco, hosts reserve team matches and has an open tribuna which can hold 1000. The stadium was unaffected by the 2011 earthquake and because it is municipally owned, it has stood by serenely as all hell has broken loose in the boardrooms of its resident clubs. Set well out of town with the mountains of the Cejo de los Enamorados as a backdrop, the Estadio Francisco Artés Carrasco has a pristine and calm feel about it, which is more than can be said for the history of football in Lorca.