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Official Review by Tarek Zohdi, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Is it a rubber boat? Is it a spaceship? No, it's the Allianz Arena!
Allianz Arena is a soccer stadium unequalled, with a fully illuminated air panel facade. The stadium serves as home for Munich's two biggest clubs, FC Bayern Munich, referred to as die Roten (the Reds) in Munich, while Die LÃ¶wen (the Lions) from TSV 1860 Munich, are called die Blauen (the Blues) in town. Depending on which team plays, the faÃ§ade is lit either red or blue. During games of the German national team or neutral games, the stadium glows white, as it has for instance in 2006, when the FIFA World Cup was opened in Munich. The facade's color changes on match free days and is now only permitted to change every 30 minutes, after ten times as many accidents happened on the Autobahn right next to the stadium.
Opened for 69,901 spectators in 2005, the Allianz Arena is the Bundesliga's third largest stadium, only behind the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund and the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. It will stage the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final.
The two hosts however, couldn't differ more from each other. On one side you have FC Bayern Munich, the glorious and the dominant football club in Germany, with world famous players over the years like Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd MÃ 1/4 ller, Lothar MatthÃ¤us and Oliver Kahn or current international stars like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Bastian Schweinsteiger. The club has won every cup there is, including the Intercontinental Cup twice, 22 times the national championship and four times the European Cup.
On the other side you have die LÃ¶wen from 1860. Once a founding member of the Bundesliga in 1963, and a one time champion in 1966. This is a club with many ups and downs, currently struggling in the Bundesliga's second division and on the edge of bankruptcy.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Before you're able to pay for parking or anything else inside the Allianz Arena, you have to get an ArenaCard inside the stadium and charge it, as there is no cash accepted. Once you have one, you'll be able to charge it online for your next visit.
There are plenty of booths inside the Arena (on level 2 and 6), where you can get your drinks and snacks, especially the famous Bavarian pretzels. Apart from that, there are two home supporters' sitting areas, with only one opened on the match day of the respective Munich team. Anyone can enter them if you're not carrying visiting merchandise with you.
The Restaurant Arena Ã la Carte concludes the catering services, although this restaurant is closed on match days.
Meh"¦ let's just say, there are stadiums with a capacity as big as the Arena's, which produce more excitement and goose bumps. Although the Arena is constantly sold-out during Bayern games, the atmosphere is Bundesliga average, with only a few exceptions throughout the season. You'll sit between tourists, sponsors and the "champagne-audience," as a part of the crowd is commonly called, due to the popularity of the club and the many wealthy inhabitants of the city.
It's different with games of 1860 Munich though. The audience average in the second division is only around 25.000 and you'll easily feel lost in the huge stadium.
Another Bundesliga exception is that there are no standing areas for visiting supporters during Bayern games. But this doesn't hold them back to radiate an enjoyable football atmosphere like the home supporters produce on their standing terraces. So at either home game, you might want to try and get tickets either near the Bayern fans or next to the section of the visiting supporters to soak up a bit of the atmosphere.
During Oktoberfest time, many locals wear their traditional costumes to the stadium, which is kind of a cute sight. Men in leather pants and women in dirndl dresses sobering up on the stands, is however, not an unfamiliar picture and, this time, a rather pitiful sight.
The Allianz Arena lies on the FrÃ¶ttmaning Heath, in the northern outskirts of Munich next to the interchange MÃ 1/4 nchen-Nord. There isn't much around, apart from grasslands and the park that leads to FrÃ¶ttmaning subway station. The city center and/or Schwabing with its cafes, restaurants and bars offer a lot of varieties. Munich is famous for its many beer gardens, every quarter has its own social meeting point, so ask locals for the closest, they'll know for sure. To recommend one, the HofbrÃ¤ukeller am Wienerplatz (Innere Wiener StraÃŸe 19) is not that touristy and attracts mostly people from the neighborhood.
Yeah, well, if you are not a supporter of a dominant team, regardless the sport, how would you characterize their fans? Blessed with success? Spoiled with success? Or even opportunistic? Do Bayern fans differ from those in Manchester, in Barcelona or those in Yankee Stadium or in Staples Center? It's probably like with any of the mentioned teams, you have hardcore fans and the "successfans", as they are called in Germany. And let's be honest, a bit of envy arises in each one of us. Although, you have to acknowledge the successful attempt of the Ultra movement to convince the stadium planners to install the usual and traditional standing terraces, which were not intended at first.
Again, a whole different story with the 1860 supporters. The club used to have a working class background, and they have been in the shade of Bayern for almost half a century now. Although their support outside of Munich is rather limited, the fans are able to divide the city into two colors, with Munich's mayor Christian Ude supporting die LÃ¶wen.
Munich has a convenient public transportation system, thus you get there fast and easily to the Arena by taking the subway. The U6 takes 16 minutes from the city center station Marienplatz to the stadium's subway station FrÃ¶ttmaning. And if you feel for another drink or bite after the game, the U6 passes Schwabing, one of the city's nightlife districts (stations MÃ 1/4 nchner Freiheit or GiselastraÃŸe). If you arrive in Munich by train, just head underneath the main train station to take one of the various S-Bahn for two stops to the Marienplatz interchange.
As you might have experienced already, taking the car to a big event is always a bit of a hassle, although it always depends on when you arrive and leave again. The stadium lies right next to an Autobahn interchange, the A99 from Stuttgart crosses the A9 coming from Nuremburg and Munich Airport. There are around 10,000 parking spots in one of Europe's largest car park, but plan some extra time if you want to leave right after the game. It costs 10"‚¬ to park your car on match days and you pay with your ArenaCard at the exit. So make sure you have enough money left on the card!
The cheapest tickets for the standing terraces cost 15"‚¬ and are sold-out most of the time. But with 70"‚¬ on the other end of the scale, Bayern Munich's prices might be a bit high for the Bundesliga, but it's still a real bargain in an European comparison. And let's face it - if you've come for a Bayern game, you'll see one of the world's best teams with some of the world's best players in action. And not only that, the Allianz Arena has become one of Munich's landmarks and is a must-see at nighttime, when it's unfolding its actual characteristic, glowing red, blue or white under the dark sky.
Besides various tours through the Arena's underbelly, the stadium offers merchandizing shops for both teams, a souvenir shop for the Arena itself, plus two daycare facilities and a Lego-World for the younger ones. But the Allianz Arena is about much more than just football. You can arrange meetings, presentations, conferences, parties or any other kind of private or business event inside the Arena.
The Allianz Arena is simply an extraordinary stadium in one of Germany's most beautiful cities. If you have the opportunity, try to catch a night game, and you'll be overwhelmed by its illumination and design. And although the atmosphere may be a bit disappointing at times, the chances are that you'll witness great football by one of the best clubs with some of the best players in a stadium like no other.
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