Temples of The Cult: Sassuolo’s Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia

In our “Temples of The Cult” column, we love to talk about old stadiums: Their history, how they survived the wars, the historic players, and the great games staged there. Today, however, we will be talking about a relatively new stadium – the newest we have visited so far.

This is considered the first “modern” stadium in Italian football. Despite being only 25 years old, it has seen multiple teams, names, owners, a bankruptcy, and even European competition matches.

Meet what is currently called the Mapei Stadium, although it is also known as Cittá del Tricolore or even Stadio Giglio. The Mapei Stadium is located in Reggio Emilia but it currently hosts Sassuolo’s games in Serie A.

This ground was not born out of nowhere and, to understand where it comes from, we must to go back to its predecessor, on whose ashes the Mapei Stadium rises today: The Stadio Mirabello.

The Stadio Mirabello was not exactly the state of the art and quickly proved unfit for the Serie A when Reggiana reached the top-flight in 1993

The Mirabello was an old stadium that dated back to the beginning of the 20th century. Although, at the beginning it was little more than a meadow where football was played. It hardly had any structure. Until the birth of Reggio Emilia’s first team – Reggiana in 1916 – this playing ground did not even have walls surrounding it. Therefore, the date of birth of the Mirabello, which took its name from the area where it was located, is a little difficult to establish.

Initially located in a suburban area, the Mirabello was little by little incorporated within the city and, until the mid-‘80s, the stands were still built in wood. When Reggiana first made it to the single-tier Serie A in 1993 (the Amaranto had had a few stints in the top-flight when it still had a regional-based format), however, two side stands were finally erected, and the grandstands were rebuilt in concrete. The stadium journey in Serie A was, however, short-lived as it quickly proved unfit for the modern top-flight. Just two years later, Reggiana moved to what would become their new home: The Stadio Giglio.

The story of the construction of this stadium is a bit unusual, starting with the time of construction: The works took only 8 months from the beginning to the opening. They were entirely financed by private capitals – including Reggiana, some partner companies and banks, but above all the fans.

More than 1000 Reggiana supporters financed a part of the stadium by buying VIP passes that would allow them access for several years. A large part of the capital was provided by company Giglio who would go on to give the stadium its name. That meant that, even before the Allianz Stadium in Turin and the Stadio Friuli in Udine, this stadium was the first one in Italy to be owned by a football club and not by a city.

The Giglio is considered the first “modern” stadium in Italy as it was mainly designed for football. The project of architects Aldo Pavoni and Carlo Minem envisioned an English-style stadium, with the stands very close to the pitch and no running track. In addition to that, the Giglio featured some characteristics which are normal today but constituted a real breakthrough 25 years ago: Security cameras, seats with TV screens and a mini bar, and even some seat warmers (at least on the most expensive seats).

The most peculiar thing about this stadium, however, is that parts of the stands are separated from the field by a water-filled moat, designed to prevent spectators from jumping onto the pitch. Videos of fans fishing (!) during the games have gone viral in the recent years.

When it was built to host Reggiana in Serie A, the Stadio Giglio in Reggio Emilia was one of the most advanced and modern in the Italian football landscape

The Stadio Giglio initially belonged to Reggio Emilia’s main club Reggiana. The team peaked during the 1990s as it played for three seasons seasons in Serie A, but steadily declined during the 2000s. Reggiana campaigned in Serie C1 without much success and hit their lowest point in 2005 when they had to file for bankruptcy and therefore had to be re-founded.

In that same year, the sponsorship contract with Giglio ended but nobody cared to change the name to the stadium as the local football movement was facing more pressuring problems. The Reggio Emilia ground remained the home of Reggiana which, in the 2011-2012 season, rented it and shared it with Carpi – a club from a smaller city in the neighboring Province of Modena.

During a Carpi-Reggiana derby in that same season, it was decided to change the name of the stadium to Cittá del Tricolore with the hope of attracting some new sponsors.

Enter the last club in this story: The Neroverdi of Sassuolo. Sassuolo is a small town of 40000 inhabitants also in the Province of Modena. Until the mid-2000s, the local football club had never played above the Serie C. In 2008, however, under the helm of a certain, still unknown Massimiliano Allegri, Sassuolo achieved their first, historical promotion to Serie B.

With a capacity of just 4000 spectators, Sassuolo’s little playing ground couldn’t meet the second division minimum standard. The team thus had to play at the Alberto Braglia Stadium in Modena during their five-year permanence in Serie B.

In 2013, however, Sassuolo drew national attention as they gained access to the Italian elite division for the first time in their history – never to leave it, at least until present day. That was when their story connected with the Reggio Emilia’s stadium’s, giving life to the most glorious pages in the history of the Cittá del Tricolore.

Sassuolo rented the stadium for a few months, but eventually took ownership of it and added to Città del Tricolore the Mapei Stadium denomination, as the Neroverdi’s president Giorgio Squinzi was also the owner of the Mapei company.

The Reggio Emilia stadium now fully bears the name and the marks of the company which owns it: Mapei of the late Sassuolo president Giorgio Squinzi

The Mapei Stadium has hosted some European competition matches, not only for Sassuolo, which achieved a shocking Europa League qualification in 2016.

In the 2017-2018 season, Atalanta qualified for the Europa League, but their stadium did not meet the criteria to be a European competition venue and thus the Nerazzurri played their home games at the Mapei Stadium – with very good results indeed, as the Orobici did not lose any game played in Reggio Emilia.

Atalanta became so affectionate to the Mapei Stadium that they chose to play there ever their last two home games of the Serie A 2018-2019 while renovation works were being completed at their Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia. It was again a fortunate choice as that is where Atalanta achieved their first, historical qualification to the Champions League. Fun fact: One of those games was right against Sassuolo – a match that both clubs played “at home” in some way.

The Mapei Stadium Città del Tricolore is a young stadium but with a rich history already. Currently the home of an ambitious club that has little by little settled in the top tier, we have no doubt it will be the stage for many more football stories to tell.

Click Below to Visit Some More Temples of The Italian Football Cult:

The San Paolo Stadium in Napoli
The Luigi Ferraris aka Marassi in Genoa
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome
The Renato Dall’Ara Stadium in Bologna
The San Nicola Stadium in Bari
The Renzo Barbera or La Favorita in Palermo
The Ennio Tardini Stadium in Parma
The Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence
The Late Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin
Atalanta’s Gewiss Stadium in Bergamo
The Cibali or Angelo Massimino In Catania
The Stadio Adriatico Giovanni Cornacchia In Pescara
The Stadio Friuli or Dacia Arena In Udine

Feature Photo: https://www.reggioaudacefc.it/stadio/