|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.
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.
|Back at the Vineyard. Campo de la Vina in early '70's|
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.
|José Rico Pérez before it invited the world|
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.
|Still looking the part, despite being confined to the wilderness of 2B|
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 - Alicante CF style|
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.
|José Rico Pérez at the gateway to the Costa Blanca|