Barcelona - Estadio Olímpico Municipal de L’Hospitalet

When you first set eyes on the Estadio Olímpico Municipal de L’Hospitalet, you are likely to ask one of two questions; Did the money run out? or Was there a fire? Neither of which happened but more of that later, first of all a little background. Up until the mid-fifties a host of teams from the suburb of  L’Hospitalet de Llobregat made appearances in the Tercera but with little lasting effect. Then in July 1957, three teams, UD Llobregat, CD Santa Eulalia & CF Hércules de Hospitalet, decided to merge and form Centre d’Esports L’Hospitalet. After a sluggish first season in the Tercera, the team started to click and a series of top five finishes culminated in a successful 1962-63 season. A second place finish in the league was followed with progress in the play-offs against Alcoyano and Atletico Malagueño, the reserve side of CD Málaga. In the final, L'Hospitalet beat Real Jaén 3-2 on aggregate, playing their home leg at Barcelona's Les Corts stadium.
Campo Municipal in the 1980's
Their home ground at the time was the Campo Municipal de Deportes Generalísimo Franco, a rather small and cramped affair in the north east of town. It opened in 1957 and remained their home until they moved to their current home in 1999. The club's stay in La Segunda lasted just three seasons, and following relegation in 1966, they dropped to the Catalan Regional league a year later. L'Hospitalet remained in the regional league for the next ten years, returning to the Tercera for two seasons in 1978 and  after a brief return to the regional league, two promotions in quick secession saw the club reach Segunda B for the 1982-83 season. They have played in the Segunda B for 24 of  the last 29 seasons, but have only reached the play-offs for La Segunda on three occasions.
"Take me out to the Ball Park... and change it into a football ground"
L'Hospitalet left the Campo Municipal in 1999 and headed to the south of the town to a stadium that had been built for the 1992 Olympics, but not to stage matches for the football tournament. You see prior to 1999 this was a baseball stadium, which explains the L-shaped main stand. In its original configuration, the stand was in the classic position for a ball park, directly behind the home plate.
The new configuration is slightly more conventional, but only just.
The new layout saw an artificial pitch installed and open banks of seats added to complete the traditional square shape. L'Hospitalet first match at the new stadium was a 2-0 victory over Gava on 20 March 1999. It is another example of an Olympic facility not quite working, although there is no denying the fact that it is a great improvement on their previous home. Espanyol's new stadium is less than a mile west from here, but there appears to have been none of fireworks that have kicked off by West Ham's proposed move to the 2012 Olympic Stadium. More pictures of Catalunya's answer to the Baseball Ground are below.

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