Alicante – José Rico Pérez

The Estadio José Rico Pérez is a monument to the visionary President of Hércules CF, who saw in the 1960’s, that Alicante was at the centre of the Costa Brava’s economic boom and wanted his beloved club to be a part of it. This story however, pre-dates the opening of the stadium by 60 years and follows the toing and froing of the club, both on and off the pitch.
José Rico Pérez - Now that is one mighty slab of stand
Way back in 1914 a youth team was formed and its members struck upon an inspirational name, that of ancient Greek hero Hercules. Hércules was a useful youth team and formed a senior section on Ocotober 20 1922. However they only really started to prosper, when an older and more successful local rival hit the rocks. Club Natacion de Alicante were the footballing arm of the local swimming club and in the 1920’s were the dominant local club and had form in the Copa del Rey, reaching the quarter finals in 1924. However, after losing the plot in a match at Valencia CF in February 1927, the Valencian Football Federation threw the book at them and rather than take the fine, the footballing arm of the swimming club was wound up.
Club Natacion de Alicante - Swimming, not boxing
Natacion played their matches at Campo de la Vina, and shared their ground with Hércules  so rather than form a new club, the players and officials of Natacion joined Hércules  who in turn adopted their neighbours blue and white striped shirts. Campo de la Vina was a basic enclosed field and by the time the club appeared in the Tercrea for the 1928-29 season, thoughts were already turning to a new stadium. Their first Tercera title in 1932 was also their last season, for the team being, at La Vina, as the club headed just 500 metres east to the purpose built Campo de Bardin. A further Tercera title followed in 1932-33, but a loss in the play-offs meant 1933-34 would be spent in the Tercera.  The fourth place finish that followed was good enough for the club to become part of the new regional second division. Hércules was a club on the up and 1934-35 would prove to be their most successful season to date, when they topped their region of La Segunda, earning a third league title in 4 years. Campo de Bardin was quite an impressive ground by 1930’s standards with a full length stand on one side of the pitch and decent terracing around the other three sides.
Campo de Bardin - Cutting edge 1930's style
Hércules’s debut in La Primera finished in an impressive sixth place, seeing wins over FC Barcelona & eventual champions Athletic Bilbao. The team had achieved a great deal in a short space of time and the future was looking bright for a young and skilful team, but then the Civil War interrupted proceedings. Following the war, Hércules continued in La Primera and another sixth place finish was achieved upon resumption. Around this time, Franco’s policies started to interfere with the Spanish Football Federation, and Hércules and FC Alicante were forced to merge and take the name Alicante Club Deportivo. The marriage however was a short one, and in 1942 after relegation to La Segunda, the clubs went their separate ways.
Campo de Bardin was getting squeezed in the 1950's

Over the next 30 years, Hércules saw three short visits to La Primera, but conversely, also tasted 2 spells in Tercera, in the late fifties and late sixties. They also left Campo de Bardin and in 1954 returned to a renovated and expanded Campo de la Vina. Whilst it did not have a covered stand it did have a higher capacity and resembled neighbouring Elche CF’s Altabix ground. You can see footage of La Vina as well as other Spanish stadia from yester-year here.
Back at the Vineyard. Campo de la Vina in early '70's
At the end of the sixties, José Rico Pérez began his presidency, and so would begin the most successful period in the clubs history. Perez made his fortune as a builder and was instrumental in the club’s return to La Primera in 1974-75 season, the refinancing of Campo de la Vina, and ultimately the building of the stadium that carries his name. The start of his presidency coincided with the clubs return to La Segunda and over a four year period, the club gained promotion back to La Primera and took up residency in its new stadium. On 3 August 1974, Hércules played host to FC Barcelona in a friendly to mark the opening of the stadium, which Barca with Cruyff, Neeskens et el won 4-0. Have a look at this footage.
José Rico Pérez before it invited the world
The new stadium took 11 months to build and had an initial capacity of 30,000. It had on its southern side a two tiered stand, with large banks of terracing around the remaining three sides. Inspired by their new home, Hércules achieved their highest ever finish in La Primera with fifth place in 1974-75. Around this time, the ever resourceful José Rico Pérez persuaded to Spanish World Cup Committee that Alicante, the Gateway to the Costa Blanca, would be an ideal host city for the 1982 finals. The stadium would require further development and Señor Pérez dipped into his considerably deep pockets and financed the building of a huge extension to the north terrace, that would become known as the Grada Mundial del Tejero. With a capacity of 38,700, Alicante hosted two group matches featuring Argentina, El Salvador and Hungary, as well as the Third Place match between Poland and France. The Spanish National side has used the stadium on six occasions, drawing the first match against Hungary in March 1977 and winning on every visit since. They returned for the first time in 10 years when La Selección played Scotland on 11 October 2011.
Still looking the part, despite being confined to the wilderness of 2B
The completion of the redevelopment in the spring of 1982 coincided with the relegation of Hércules to La Segunda.  Two seasons later they were back in La Primera, but José Rico Pérez was no longer president, having to stand down due to ill health. Without his guidance and money, Hércules fell on hard times and by 1988 they were playing in Segunda 2b. Five seasons at this level saw the debts grow and when they returned to La Segunda in 1994, the clubs debts stood at 575 million pesatas. The only option was to sell the stadium to the municipality. The mid-nineties saw a one season return to the top flight, but by 1999 Hércules were back in Segunda 2B.
José Rico Pérez - Alicante CF style
In 2001, city rival Alicante CF was promoted to Segunda 2b and with their own Villafranqueza ground not suitable for use, they moved into Estadio José Rico Pérez. They even  customised it on match days by replacing Hércules CF crests and strategically placing sacks over the white seats that spelt “Hércules CF” in order to spell “Alicante CF”. In 2007, the directors of the Hércules CF bought back the stadium from the Municipality and so began the next phase of the clubs history.
José Rico Pérez at the gateway to the Costa Blanca
Back in La Primera for the 2010-11 season and with Alicante CF back at a redeveloped Villafranqueza, the Estadio José Rico Pérez was converted into a 30,000 all-seat stadium as part of a 45 million euro facelift of the stadium and surrounding sports city.  Work on the stadium included the installation of new seats, press facilities and a new pitch. Hércules has achieved a great deal in the past five years, however, with mounting debts and relegation back to La Segunda after just one season, their long-term survival is their next and most important herculean task.

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