The “Heart of Łódź” – the Main Venue of FIFA U20 World Cup

On 18 March 2017 the new Widzew stadium opening ceremony took place at al. Piłsudskiego 138. In the inaugural game played at the stadium packed to the gunwales Widzew defeated Motor Lubawa.

Until 2014 Widzew played at its old stadium in al. Piłsudskiego 138. Originally built in the 1930’s the establishment became the home ground of Widzew after World War II. Over the following 65 years the stadium was modernised on many occasions. In the 1970’s it developed into a typical football stadium with the stands close to the pitch. In the mid-1980’s stands got elevated taking the ground’s total capacity to over 20K seats. In addition, lights were installed. The last big modernisation took place in the late 1990’s when wooden benches were replaced with plastic seats, part of the main stand was covered and a glass-wall coffee shop was built over the administration building. Then, the capacity of the stadium was close to 10K seats.

On 22 November 2014 Widzew played its last game on the old stadium (1:1 draw with GKS Katowice). Demolition started in January 2015 and construction works began in May 2015. On 3 February 2017 the new stadium was handed over to the city of Lodz and on 18 March the Widzew squad played its first match in regular season.

The total capacity of the stadium is 18, 018 covered seats. Openness is its main feature; the place is not fenced from the rest of urban space while the faҫade of the main stand which is a combination of concrete, glass, and clinker makes references with its architecture to working class roots of the city. The structure meets requirements laid down for category 3 of UEFA classification with the potential for upgrading to a higher category. In the immediate neighbourhood of the stadium there is a parking lot for over 660 cars and 9 buses.

Since the new stadium was opened, each game played by Widzew at home is a genuine feast for football fans. They are coming to Lodz not only from across Poland but also from Europe. In Spring 2017/2018 average attendance at Widzew games played in regular season reached 14,860 spectators. The biggest attendance was reported for the opening match with Motor Lubawa and for Lodz derby with ŁKS Łódź (17, 443 spectators). In 2017/2018 season average attendance was 16, 551; the biggest crowd filled the stands of the Heart of Lodz to watch the match with Legia Warszawa reserve team (17, 987) and with Polonia Warszawa (17, 521).

Soon it turned out that the new stadium is too small for Widzew needs. Efforts have been launched to expand it. Initial analyses have confirmed that it is possible to increase its capacity by about 5K seats.