Estadi Municipal de L’Hospitalet

At the start of the 20th Century, Barcelona began an urban sprawl that would see it swallow up many of its outlying towns and villages. One such small town to the south west of Barcelona was L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. In 1900, the town had a population of under 5,000, but as its populous grew, so did the number of small football clubs looking to make their mark in the regional leagues. By 1950,  L’Hospitalet de Llobregat’s population had grown to over 70,000, but none of its assorted clubs had managed to make an impression in the Tercera. Then in July 1957, three teams, UD Llobregat, CD Santa Eulalia & CF Hércules de Hospitalet, decided to merge and form Centre d’Esports L’Hospitalet.

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Campo Municipal de Deportes Generalísimo Franco pictured in 1970.

Home for the first season was CF Hércules de Hospitalet’s Camp de Torre Melina, but the local municipality had promised a new stadium for the fledgling club, and on 15 May 1958, the Campo Municipal de Deportes Generalísimo Franco, was inaugurated with a friendly against Barcelona. Situated just to the east of the town, the stadium had a capacity of 10,000 spread over three open terraces and a larger tribuna on the west side. By 1960, the stadium featured four floodlight pylons, which was extremely unusual in the Tercera at that point in time. Unsurprisingly, the stadium was renamed the Camp Municipal d’Esports in the mid-1970s, following Franco’s death.

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Camp Municipal d’Esports in the late 1980s

After a sluggish first season in the Tercera, the team started to click and a series of top five finishes culminated in a successful 1962-63 season. A second place finish in the league was followed with progress in the play-offs against Alcoyano and Atletico Malagueño. In the final, L’Hospitalet beat Real Jaén 3-2 on aggregate, playing their home leg at Barcelona’s Les Corts stadium. The club’s stay in La Segunda lasted just three seasons, with a best finish in 1964-65 of 11th in Group I of the regionalised second tier. Relegation followed in the 65-66 season, and the club dropped  to the Catalan Regional league a year later. L’Hospitalet remained in the regional league for the next ten years, returning to the Tercera for two seasons in 1978 and after a brief return to the regional league, two promotions in quick secession saw the club reach Segunda B for the 1982-83 season. With the exception a single season back in the Tercera for the 1986-87 season, L’Hospitalet dropped anchor in Segunda B, clocking up 15 seasons in the third tier, before time was called on the Camp Municipal d’Esports. The final fixture at the ground was staged on 7 March 1999 and saw L’Hospitalet beat Ontinyent by a goal to nil.

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Take me out to the Ball Park… but change it into a football ground

L’Hospitalet left the Campo Municipal headed to the south of the town to a stadium that had been built for the 1992 Olympics, but not to stage matches for the football tournament. You see, prior to 1999 this was a baseball stadium, which explains the L-shaped main stand. In its original configuration, the stand was in the classic position for a ball park, directly behind the home plate. A new layout was require to stage football, and this saw an artificial pitch installed and open banks of seats added to complete the traditional square shape. L’Hospitalet first match at the new stadium was a 2-0 victory over CF Gavá on 20 March 1999.

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Estadi Municipal de L’Hospitalet pictured in 2006

When you first set eyes on the Estadi Municipal de L’Hospitalet, the most common reaction is did the money run-out?, as it has the hallmark of an over-ambitious project that stopped mid-development when the coffers ran dry. The municipality has to be congratulated on this particular recycling project, for whilst it is  another example of an Olympic facility not quite working, it is in use throughout the week. There is also no denying the fact that it is a great improvement on L’Hospitalet’s previous home.

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The configuration for football is more conventional, but only just.

In 2009, RCD Espanyol opened its new stadium a few kilometres to the south west of the town centre. Initially, this seemed to revitalise L’Hospitalet, with the club claiming its first Segunda B title in 2012-13, followed by a second-place finish a year later. However failure to navigate the play-offs put an end to hopes of a return to La Segunda, and the club dropped to the Tercera in 2017. The club still run out at Catalunya’s “Baseball Ground,” but following the reorganisation of the Spanish league system in 2021, this is in RFEF División 3, or the fifth tier.

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CE L’Hospitalet Official Website : https://www.celh.es/

La Futbolteca club history : http://lafutbolteca.com/centre-desports-lhospitalet/

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