San Siro

The history of the San Siro stadium

A gift from Pirelli

The San Siro (named after the saint who had a chapel dedicated to him in this suburb) stadium was a gift from the Milan president Piero Pirelli (in charge from 1909 for twenty years) to 'his Milan'. The stadium was built in just 13 and a half months, thanks to the work of 120 construction workers. The total cost of the operation came to five million lire which in today's terms would translate to three and a half million euro. The stadium was designed by Ulisse Stacchini, the architect whose other major work in the city was the Milan Central Station, and renowned engineer Alberto Cugini.

The inauguration

The San Siro was designed on the English model for stadiums, solely for football with four stands holding a capacity of 35,000 spectators. It opened on 19 September 1926, when a packed stadium watched Inter defeat Milan 6-3. The first league game was played on September 19, 1926 when Milan lost 2-1 to Sampierdarenese while the first international took place on February 20, 1927 and Italy drew 2-2 with Czechoslovakia. Until the end of 1945, the San Siro remained the exclusive property of Milan while Inter played their home games at the Arena in the centre of the city. The 'Theatre of Football' has gone under numerous renovations since then to create the imposing monument to the game it is today.

The first expansion

Milan sold the stadium to the city council in 1935 and three years later the decision was taken to develop the stands. Football had become more and more of a mass phenomenon so the San Siro had to be expanded to meet the demand. Architect Rocca and engineer Calzolari were given the task and they took advantage of the pre-existing structure that supported the interior to build an external ramp to enable access into the stadium. In 1952, the capacity was originally set at 150,000 but after discussions with the city council that figure was rejected. After spending 5.1 million lire on the modernisation of the stadium, the inauguration took place on May 13, 1939 when Italy drew 2-2 with England. Gate receipts for that game came to 1.2 million lire.

The second development

Work on the second expansion of the stadium started in 1954 and 12 months later, on October 26, 1955, it was opened with a capacity of 85,000. The first set of floodlights were installed in 1957 and the electronic scoreboard followed in 1967. The floodlights were modernised in 1979 when the second tier was developed. The stadium was officially renamed in honour of Giuseppe Meazza, the famous Inter and Milan player of the 1930s and 1940s, on March 3, 1980. In 1986, the first tier became an all-seated numbered and coloured section. The main central stand became red, the stands around and facing that, orange, the north stand behind the goal, green and the south stand where the Milan fans gather, blue.

The third ring

For the event of the Football World Cup 1990, the Municipality of Milan decided to proceed with the refurbishment of the “Meazza” stadium after they turned down the idea of building a new stadium due to reasons of high costs and limited time available. The first idea is to design a futuristic and stunning project: the construction of the third ring and the roof to cover all the spectators. The project, design by Architect Giancarlo Ragazzi, Architect Enrico Hoffer and Engineer Leo Finzi, consists of the construction of a third ring of stands, resting on indipendent supports designed around the existing stadium.

The structure of the new third ring rests on eleven cylindrical towers in reinforced concrete. These towers also provide access to the stands and various services and are indipendent from the existing construction. Four of these towers also support the reticular beams of the roof. To give maximum comfort all the new seats placed are ergonomic, numbered and colored in four different colors to identify the four main sectors of the stadium. The 85.700 spectators are all covered with a roof made of curved shelters of polycarbonate. Furthermore was installed a new drainage and heating system and a new flood lighting system. In june the 8th 1990 the stadium hosted the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup with the match Argentina vs Camerun. Since then the “Scala del Calcio” host the passions of millions of fans. During the summer 2008, due to the construction works to meet the new Uefa standards, the stadium capacity has become 80.018 spectators.

The figures

To complete the construction, 10,000 quintals of cement, 3,500 cubic metres of sand and 1,500 quintals of iron were needed. In order to mark out the pitch, 80kg of chalk is needed to cover a dimension of 105 metres long and 68 metres wide. The perimeter beams are 204 by 296 metres and weigh 1,100 and 2,000 tonnes, respectively. The roof is covered with 256 floodlights, emitting 3,500 watts. In order to carry out the main construction, two 64-metre high cranes were purposely installed. Inside the stadium, there are emergency exits and a service elevator with a weight capacity of 1,000 kg. The San Siro stadium is situated across from the city race course and is six kilometres from the centre of Milan.

Not only football

The San Siro stadium is a symbol of Milan (such as the Scala and the Duomo) and it’s famous not only for football but for other great events that made is history. For example the boxing match between Duilio Loi and Carlo Ortis (September 1st, 1960), a return match for the world title of welter junior. There were 53.043 people, 8 thousand near the boxing ring for the occasion. That match was won by the Italian and it yielded 130 millions. The stadium has hosted some musical concerts too. Bob Marley (June 27th, 1980) presented his show under the North Curve. There were 90 thousands people to greet the Jamaican musician. The same hail was shown for Bruce Springsteen (1985). The Red Stand has hosted even an open-air disco. Now, under the South Curve, there is a museum that follows all the A.C. Milan and Inter F.C. history through the memorabilia of the people who made that history. The stadium is visited by 50 thousand of people when there’s no matches. Since July 1st, 2000 San Siro is managed jointly by A.C. Milan and Inter F.C.