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Silesian Stadium

Silesian StadiumŹródło: gmp - Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner, Foto: Jorg Hempel Photodesign.
L-7, ul. Katowicka 10, Chorzów, www.stadionslaski.pl

Following the firestorm of destruction unleashed by WWII, post-war Poland resembled a giant brickyard as the nation set about rebuilding itself. 1950 saw the decision undertaken to build the Silesia Stadium (Stadion Śląski) in Chorzów as part of the Park of Culture & Recreation, and Julian Brzuchowski got the job of designing the social realist monstrosity. Construction began in 1951 with many keen patriots volunteering to work on the project for free. Despite this, it still took a government outlay of 1.5 million złoty – a staggering amount at the time – to complete it. The opening match was scheduled against East Germany on July 22nd, 1956 and designated ‘Rebirth of Poland Day’, a new communist holiday celebrating liberation from Nazi occupation. Festivities included a parade and an honourary flyover by three fighter planes, however the Germans naturally ruined the day with a 2-0 win.

With an official capacity of 87,000, crowds regularly exceeded that figure thanks to plenty of standing room and in 1963 a record 120,000 squeezed in to watch visiting FK Austria Wien take on Górnik Zabrze. In 1993 Stadion Śląski became the official home of the Polish national team, thanks to the sorry state of the national stadium in Warsaw. Although for safety reasons capacity was reduced to 47,246, this remained the largest stadium in Poland, hosting speedway championships and other events, including massive concerts by bands like U2, ACDC, Iron Maiden and The Rolling Stones.

Following an illustrious history, the stadium’s importance has recently been eroded by the new spate of venues built for the Euro 2012 football tournament. In spite of unveiling plans to modernize Silesian Stadium and increase capacity to 55,000, Chorzów didn’t make the shortlist of host cities for Euro 2012, losing out to Gdańsk, Warsaw, Poznań and Wrocław. Since 2009, the stadium has been undergoing the said modernisation which includes the construction of a 43,000 square metre roof, plus new stands, lighting, video screens and an improved sound system. Other facilities will include a hotel, restaurant, tennis courts, food vendors and VIP boxes, and the speedway track is being replaced with a traditional track that will allow Chorzów to host international track and field events. Though originally planned to be completed by autumn 2011 for 415 million złoty, best estimates are that work will not be finished before 2014 for under 500 million złoty, at which point local side Ruch Chorzów looks poised to make it their home stadium.

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