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Barça's history and its growth as a sporting and social entity has always been linked to its stadia, culminating in Camp Nou which will soon undergo the most important redevelopment in its history with the long awaited Espai Barça project. The 122 year old Club celebrated this year, 2022, the centenary of the construction of the ground at Les Corts - The Cathedral of football - as it quickly became known due to it being of the best in Europe at the time.
Les Corts was opened with a capacity for 22,00 0 fans | ARXIU BARÇA
The building of the ground at Les Corts was a logical consequence of the great Barça explosion that occurred in its first Golden Age between 1919 and 1929. The area chosen to build the new ground on was known as Can Ribot, or Can Guerra, and was situated in the Les Corts district between Carrer Numancia and the Travessera de les Corts (very close to the current Camp Nou). On 10 July 1921 at the FC Barcelona General Assembly the decision to build the new home was approved “to meet all the conditions which the good name of the Club, its glorious history and the honour of Catalan football demand."
The Club, however, needed financing for the project and on 8 December 1921 in an extraordinary meeting of members the financial conditions were agreed. President Joan Gamper proclaimed that very day: "Gentlemen, from here on in a new Barcelona will be born, opening up a new era of prosperity and bringing an end to the opening period of its history."
On 8 February 1922 an emotional Joan Gamper signed the property deeds for the land on which the new ground was to be built.
“Cheer up your hearts – we have a new ground!”
A few days later – 19 February- the solemn ceremony of laying the first foundation stone for the future Les Corts Stadium was held. At 11.00 a large number of Barça fans and members set out from the newly named Carrer París-Urgell (previously Carrer Industria).
The laying of the first brick | ARXIU BARÇA
They were accompanied by the Casa de Familiar marching band, the Club Standard carried by the ex-wrestling champion and fervent Barça fan Josep Ardèvol, the members of the Club’s four teams, representatives of the City Council and the Mancomunitat and the complete Board of Directors. When they arrived at Can Ribot, Father Lluís Sabaté –Club member number 79 and a diehard fan, blessed the foundation stone.
From a small stage set up for the authorities, Joan Gamper made an emotional speech in which he said: “on this ground, conquered by hard work and love, we will plant roots. With past victories remembered, there will be many more to come on this blessed ground. Cheer up your hearts – we have a new ground!”
The Gamper family during the construction of the stadium at Les Corts | ARXIU BARÇA
The following day, building work began in earnest and in a record time of three months, after much hard work day and night, the new ground was completed and the new Les Corts Stadium, with a capacity of 22,000, was solemnly opened on 20 May 1922.
Victory in the inaugural match
FC Barcelona met Scottish club St.Mirren in the inaugural game at the stadium which ended in a 2-1 win for the home side. The victory came just six days after Barça had beaten Real Unión Irun 5-1 to claim the Spanish Championship.
The first Golden Age
The opening of the new ground could not have come at a better moment in the Club's history. A team containing legends such as Samitier, Alcántara, Zamora, Sagi, Piera and Sancho amongst others dominated football in the country. In the decade of the 1920s they won the Catalan Championship eight times, the Spanish Championship five times as well as the first ever league championship in 1929.
Demand quickly meant the Les Corts stadium needed to be expanded | ARXIU BARÇA
From 22,000 to 48,000 capacity
Les Corts was remodelled several times, particularly after the Spanish Civil War, with more and more members joining every year. This increased support was the inspiration for several expansion projects; the final expansion of the stadium in 1946 took the capacity to 48,000 fans, more than double the initial figure. However, it was becoming patently evident that what the club really needed to do was build a completely new stadium.
A sale that helped finance the debt
Despite the expansion of the stadium at Les Corts, the post-war boom in support led to the feeling that a new ground was needed with the Club's current home unsuitable for further development. At the end of the 1940s the construction of a new stadium was a serious objective for the Club and in 1957 Camp Nou was finally opened.
Les Corts was used as a training and as a stadium for the B team but president Enric Llaudet felt it could be put to better used by selling the land. On 4 March 1966, nine years after the arrival of Camp Nou, the old stadium was demolished and the land sold for 226 million pesetas for urban developments.
The money from the sale was used to finance the Club's debt brought on by the construction of Camp Nou and the stadium in Les Corts, venue for Barça legend Paulino Alcantará's many goals, the Five Cups side and many other great memories for the Club was no more.
Barça into the future
Camp Nou was opened on 24 September 1957, on the day of 'La Mercé' the patron saint of the city of Barcelona. With a capacity of over 99,000 fans, the stadium has witnessed many a glorious day with stars such as Johan Cruyff, Ronaldinho and Leo Messi gracing its turf amongst many others. Now, 60 years later, FC Barcelona face another challenge: a new Espai Barça, a vital objective for the Club's future.
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