Named as the venue for this weekend’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid after Saint-Petersburg was stripped of the game, the Stade de France has been hurriedly getting ready for the event with a new pitch being laid.
The grass for the new surface was grown in Spain, near Barcelona, before being transported to the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis just north of Paris, and installed in 48 hours all in time for Saturday’s Champions League showpiece.
The 80,000-seat stadium was only named as the venue in late February, as UEFA reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine by taking the final away from Saint-Petersburg.
Yet preparations were complicated by the fact the stadium had already been booked for a concert by French new wave group Indochine last Saturday.
And so, at the start of this week, some 500 bales of grass, each weighing between 750 kilos and a ton, were unloaded from lorries before being laid down by tractors to each cover a patch of 15 metres in length and 1.2 metres wide.
Some 24 refrigerated articulated lorries were needed to transport the turf to France.
The previous pitch was removed on May 8, the day after the stadium hosted the French Cup final between Nantes and Nice, before a series of concerts at the venue, culminating in Indochine’s performance at the weekend.
The lack of time between that concert and the final meant having to lay the new pitch in just 48 hours rather than taking the usual five days.
“It is an enormous logistical challenge,” said Loïc Duroselle, institutional director for the Stade de France.
The new surface consists of a synthetic mat on top of which the natural grass grows.
Once all 8,800 square metres are laid, by Wednesday evening, the surface will need to be watered and pampered and the pitch markings will need to be painted on.
“Five percent of the pitch is synthetic and so it is 95 percent natural,” explains Andy Cole, a British specialist who is the technical consultant for Vinci i-turf Management, the company overseeing the installation of the new surface.
The pitch needs to be ready in time for Liverpool and Real to train on it on Friday.
And yet the new surface will not be there for long.
It will remain as the stadium hosts two France matches in the UEFA Nations League in June, before it hosts the final of France’s Top 14 rugby season.
After that it will be lifted up and taken to the western French city of Le Mans where it will be laid at the stadium there.
That will allow the Stade de France to be used for more concerts over the summer before getting prepared for the new football and rugby seasons.
In total the operation will cost between 300,000 euros and 500,000 euros ($319,000 to $532,000), stadium officials said.