A football stadium is most often a synonym for “home advantage” – the obvious benefit that a team playing on its own turf can experience because of their crowd. The home advantage applies to the local players, who can feel the warmth and the support of their own fans, but also affect the visitors, who feel outnumbered.
There are many stadiums around the world famous for their home atmosphere: The Vodafone Park in Istanbul, La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, or the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. These grounds usually belong to big teams, very popular in their countries, and with a large fan base.
There is one exception, however. There is the case of one stadium that, despite belonging to not one but two big and popular teams (Juventus and Torino), never really caught on with their fans and was subject to continuous criticism during its few years of existence. That was the “soulless stadium,” as it came to be known: The Stadio Delle Alpi (“Stadium of The Alps”) in Turin.
The story of this stadium starts from the same point as many other playing grounds we have explored in this column: The 1990 World Cup. When Italy was chosen as the host country for the upcoming world championship, an important city like Turin necessarily had to be one of the host cities.
Back in the days, Juventus and Torino both played at the Stadio Comunale. The Comunale was over 50 years old and, although located in the city center, was by now small and obsolete. The idea of renovating it for the event was initially considered. There would have been so much to do, however, that it just seemed easier to look for a new site and build a new stadium from scratch.
The area chosen to host the new facility was the Continassa, in the Vallette borough. Although not too far from the center, the Continassa is a secluded spot and – considering that for 50 years fans had not needed to move much to watch the games – that wasn’t a very popular decision from the beginning.
In 1986, the Comune of Turin officially awarded the project to architect Sergio Hutter, who envisaged a large stadium, with room for 70,000 spectators, covered by a circular roof, and featuring a running track. Again, a running track.
Time has proved that running tracks in football stadiums are mostly anti-aesthetic, inconvenient, and useless. Tracks were a common feature in old-school stadiums from the beginning of the 20th Century when football was not so popular yet and nobody thought that such athletic venues were going to be used mainly for this purpose. That made sense.
But, in this case, we are talking about a stadium built at the end of the ‘80s and specifically for a football World Cup. So why putting a running track?
Apparently, the idea was to sell the stadium as a “multi-functional” venue that could be used for other athletic disciplines as well. The story goes that this was a condition set by the CONI (the Italian Olympic Committee) to financially contribute to its construction. Too bad that the Delle Alpi could never be used for any track and field event as, it eventually turned out, the stadium had a running track…but no warm-up track!
Another bad move was overestimating the capacity needs of the stadium. The Delle Alpi was designed for the World Cup, but not so much for the following events. The running track made the lower ring less visible, the side stands and the higher boxes were very distant from the playing field, and the seats in the stands were very large, making it difficult to see the game when standing.
Add to that its distance from the city center, and you have it why only once in its history has the Turin stadium come close to a full house – on the occasion of a UEFA Cup Final in 1992 between Torino and Ajax.
The average attendance at the Delle Alpi used to be 30-40,000 in the mid-’90s, a golden age for both local clubs but dropped substantially over time to almost 15,000. The negative record was set in 2001 during a Coppa Italia match between Juventus and Sampdoria when only 237 people showed up to support the Bianconeri!
The stadium opened its doors in 1990 hosting a rather bizarre match between visitor Porto and a mixed team with players from Juventus and Torino, called JuveToro, which took the field wearing a yellow shirt and blue shorts (the official colors of the city).
Five World Cup matches were played at the Delle Alpi, three group stage games, and two memorable knockout matches. The first was a world classic between Argentina and Brazil. It was a tremendous siege by a superior Brazilian side, which however found an enlightened Sergio Goycochea on their way and eventually succumbed to a stroke of genius by Claudio Caniggia that pushed Argentina forward.
The second memorable game was the Semi-Final between West Germany and England, both teams being strong candidates for the title. It was a very intense match which was decided only on penalties. Considered one of the best performances from the English team, it, however, ended with Germany going through to the final.
During their stay at the Stadio Delle Alpi, Juventus had one of their best runs winning five Scudetto, one Coppa Italia, one UEFA Cup, one Champions League, one UEFA Supercup, and one Intertoto Cup. Still, that was not enough for the fans to become attached to the stadium.
In addition to all the above-mentioned limitations, the stadium’s maintenance costs were exaggerated. Both Torino and Juventus struggled to cope with the costs and the rent they had to pay to the Comune of Turin, which owned the ground. Juventus threatened to leave the stadium and the city already in 1994 and even considered the idea of playing their international matches in other Italian stadiums. It was in 2002 that, after 8 years of talks, the Bianconeri finally managed to take control of the Delle Alpi, and promptly decided to tear it down and rebuild it.
Torino, on the other hand, got the permission to restart playing at the Stadio Comunale. However, as the stadium was finally being refurbished in the occasion of the 2006 Winter Olympics, they were forced to continue playing at the Delle Alpi until 2006 – now having to pay the rent to their bitter rivals Juventus. Since then, they have called the Comunale – now known as Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino – their home.
The end of the controversial Stadio Delle Alpi came in November 2008. Only 18 years after its inauguration, the stadium was demolished to leave room to the brand-new Allianz Stadium – Juventus’ new home ground. It went down to history as a symbol of waste, poor organization, and underutilization common to many grounds that the 1990 World Cup left in heritage to Italy. A stadium designed by engineers, with no consideration for its final users – the spectators.
Those who saw Marcello Lippi’s fantastic Juventus or Emiliano Mondonico’s Torino play may still have fond memories of it. Still, the final word on it was put by Juventus’ legendary President Gianni Agnelli who, in a piece in the La Stampa newspaper, once remarked: “Playing at the Delle Alpi is like always playing away.”
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