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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The American Express Community Stadium, known primarily as "the Amex" or its locational name of "Falmer Stadium", is the new home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club whom (as of 2013) plays in the English Championship. It was opened in July 2011 and had long been in the pipeline since the club were forced out of their historic Goldstone ground in 1997. Following a ground share at Gillingham, the club returned to Brighton in 1999 to play at the Withdean Athletics Stadium whilst planning permission was sought for a new development in Falmer on the outskirts of the city. The Amex has an all seated capacity of 30,250, and the stadium's record attendance of 30,003 was achieved for the visit by Wolves on 4 May 2013, from which this report is written. The West Stand is a three-tiered structure housing luxury boxes and the majority of the club's facilities that includes banqueting suites, conference rooms, and a nursery. The East Stand was expanded to two tiers, while the remaining stands are single-tiered, with the whole structure joined by a continuous sloping roof. Although ten years in the making, the stadium is amongst one of the best for comfort in English sport and blends in well with the surrounding Sussex countryside. The stadium will also be a host venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Amex has a wide selection of good quality food. There is the normal selection of hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and chips, but the piglet pies that come in a wide variety of fillings are highly recommended and are good value at £3.50. There are also hot and cold drinks, including alcohol on sale.
The Amex's atmosphere is a million times better than what the club had to endure at the Withdean Stadium. The layout of the stadium helps retain the noise levels, and when full, the atmosphere is as good as any in the Championship. The club also does its best with regards to pre-match entertainment to get the crowd singing.
The South of England has something to offer everybody: fantastic country side views and seaside towns. Brighton is a busy seaside city with an excellent town centre offering High Street stores and novelty shops in The Lanes shopping area. With a wide selection of hotels and restaurants to cater for all budgets, finding somewhere will not be a problem. Harry Ramsden's famous Fish & Chip shop can be recommended and is not too expensive. The nearby town of Lewes is also only ten minutes from the stadium and offers alternatives, as does the resort of Eastbourne. It was Eastbourne where we decided to stay and The New England Hotel was excellent value for money.
The Seagulls' supporters have had a rough ride over the past fifteen years, and the move to the new stadium has helped with a lift in fortunes on the pitch. Unfortunately, in 2013, the club just missed out on the play-off final and will not compete in the Premier League for yet another season. Supporters have stayed loyal during the years of not having a stadium of their own, but things are on the up and crowds have risen from seven to twenty-five thousand, on average.
The stadium is easily reached by car by taking the A27 towards Lewes (when leaving the M23) and is visible as you approach the district of Falmer near the University of Sussex. Parking is extremely difficult, but several park-and-ride schemes are in operation on match days. Local buses run by the stadium, and Falmer Railway Station is adjacent to the Amex and is served by trains from Brighton and Lewes. The nearest airports will be those in London or Southampton.
Tickets for home games in the Championship are priced between £28 and £39 with concessions for O.A.P's and under 16's. Tickets at the higher end of the price scale are expensive, but are not out of place in the South of England. All tickets will cover public transport on the day of the game between Brighton, Lewes, and Haywards Heath. The club should be commended for this as this is a rarity in England and helps ease traffic congestion and parking problems.
There is a well-stocked club shop at the stadium, and match day programmes are on sale for every game priced at £3.50. There are Betting Kiosks in the stadium, and the concourses are more than well equipped with televisions by the food outlets, so that you have something to watch whilst you are eating the famous Piglet pies. Another novelty is that the concourse walls are covered with old photographs, again showing that the club has tried to do something different.
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