Estádio Raimundo Sampaio – Arena Independência (Independence Arena) was built for the 1950 World Cup. On that occasion, one of the World Cup greatest upsets took place, as USA beat England 1-0. The stadium was demolished in 2010 and a new arena was built in the exact same place, with some aspects of the old stadium being maintained, like the building behind one of the sidelines.
The stadium is the property of the state of Minas Gerais, but conceded to América Futebol Clube, a local soccer team, for 28 years. The new arena construction was finished in the beginning of 2012, and is the primary home of América Futebol Clube. Clube Atlético Mineiro also uses the stadium for the majority of its matches.
The stadium has a capacity of 23,018, although it never reaches its full capacity due to security reasons. The record of most people attending a game in this stadium is 20,988, which occurred for the match Atlético vs Tijuana-MEX, on 05/30/2013.
Arena Independência is a giant concrete monster, and the stands project a “U” form, the open part being the locker rooms and the screenboard. It was built this way in order to lower the costs and keep some aspects of the old stadium.
Even tough it’s a beautiful and modern stadium, it has one MAJOR defect. The upper part of the stands has some guardrails that make it impossible for fans to watch the game while seated. You have to be standing if you don’t want to watch the game through a fence. In the lower parts, in games where people are standing – and even seated, because of people standing in the stairway - you can’t see the sidelines very well.
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".
The stadium does not provide a good variety and amount of concessions. You are not going to starve, but there are not many options to eat and drink. Inside the arena, you can basically eat popcorn (from 5 to 20 reais), a small chicken pie (6 reais), snacks (5 reais), ice cream, and chips (5 reais).
Even though hamburger and tropeiro beans (a famous local meal) are displayed on the menu, they are not available.
For beverages, you can find soft drinks (5 reais) with the major soda brand being Pepsi. There's also water (3 reais), juice (5 reais) and non-alcoholic beer (6 reais). One nice thing is that there are some drinking fountains available, but the water is not always going to be cold.
When there is only one concession open you will find long lines before the match.
Overall, you are not going to have a good experience if you choose to eat and drink INSIDE the stadium. I would strongly recommend you to take some time and arrive early in the neighborhood, so you can experience the atmosphere, drink some beer and try the local meals. It won't be hard for you to find people selling beer, and there are lots of places selling barbecue and tropeiro beans - the club's supporters' most famous meal - you will also find lots of food trucks selling pork sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers.
The stadium really shows up in the landscape near it, even though there are lots of buildings, from houses to apartments, surrounding the venue. Belo Horizonte, the city itself, has a lot of hills, and the stadium is in a high part of the neighborhood.
Inside the arena you will also feel how big and tall the construction is, and the big concrete pillars are really impressive.
The seats are all green - except behind the goal post - and depending on the section, they may or may not be folding. The space between you and the people next to you is not very roomy, but you can still sit comfortably.
Unfortunately, the glass that separates the field from the standing is sometimes dirty, and the reflections can bother you.
While in the stands, you can notice the stadium's biggest issue. There are some blind sights. In the lower parts, because of people standing, it's hard to see the nearest sideline, and if the ball is there you will mostly "watch" it through the fans reaction, because you won't be able to see it. If people were seated - in good attendance matches it doesn't happen - that wouldn't be a problem. In the upper stands, because of the inclination, the stadium was forced to install guardrails, making it impossible to watch the game seated, even if everybody is. If you try to do so, you will see the match through some holes in the fence.
After the stadium was demolished it lost one of its major curiosities. Because of how high the houses near the stands were, people on the terraces behind the goal that is not open were able to see the game without even having to go in the stadium. Unfortunately, because of how big the structure is now, that's not possible anymore. Nowadays, there's only one house that can you can see from inside the stadium, but people there are not able to watch the match. They call themselves "Torcida Galo Muro" (Rooster Wall Fans).
In between the upper and lower stands, there are the VIP seats, the only place in the stadium that you are able to watch the game seated. Because of the price of the tickets, people there sit more often than in other sections. The VIP seats are located in 2/3 of this part of the stadium, the other 1/3 being the cabins (luxury suites) and the media area. Most of the cabins are sold to companies related to the club and the sports environment in the city, and in order to rent one - for one match or for the year - you have to contact the stadium administrator directly.
There's one big video board located in the open part of the arena. It's mostly used as a scoreboard, showing the score, the yellow or red cards taken on the field, who scored the goal, the team's lineup etc. During halftime and before the game, it also shows some of the team's recent and historic moments and advertisements.
Before the match starts, the team's mascot "Galo Doido" (Crazy Rooster) fires up the crowd. He often runs to the field carrying a flag and if you enter in the stadium early, you will see how he drives the fans crazy. It's a really nice warm-up for the game.
While choosing where to sit, I would strongly recommend gate 2 or gate 3 (the lower stands in the middle of the field). They are virtually the same, with the difference being that on sunny days the gate 3 gets sunlight for some part of the match. It's usually one of the most expensive sections, but it's the best place to watch the game for a reasonable price.
There are games where you can pay less, and games you can pay more. Tickets will cost anywhere from 30 to 400 reais to sit in the same place. If you don't mind the guardrail, the upper parts also provide a good view of the field. The only place I wouldn't recommend is behind the goal post. Even though it's great to see what happens near you, it's not easy to watch when the ball is on the other side of the field.
The stadium is mostly covered, and in order for the rain to get to you, you have to be near the field and it has to be windy.
Arena Independencia is located in one of the country's most famous neighborhoods, Horto. Why is it famous? Because of the stadium. It's mostly a residential neighborhood, but on game day everything changes. You will find people using their houses to sell beer, food and even parking.
Some of the streets near the arena are closed - some by the police, some by the fans themselves - making it easier to tailgate before the matches. You will find thousands of people eating, drinking and singing near the stadium.
The most famous meeting point is in a square two blocks away from the stadium. There you have the "street of fire" (it takes place on Silviano Brandão avenue), or, how the fans prefer to refer to it, "inferno alvinegro" (black and white hell - although it's actually red). It consists of lots of people holding red flares in order to welcome the team bus. It's a great experience. You don't have to be in the middle of it to see it, and this is one of the must-do experiences if you are attending a game at Arena Independencia.
Surrounding the stadium, you will find lots of places to eat and drink, most of them existing only on game day. Lots of people bring their beer from home, but it won't be hard to find people selling it. You can buy Brazilian beer (Brahma, Skol) or find Budweiser, Heineken, and Corona. There are people selling other types of drinks, but around 99% of the people are drinking beer. To eat, I would recommend trying the feijão tropeiro (trooper's beans), which consists of beans mixed with lots of stuff, from onions to sausages. There are also "sanduiche de pernil" (pork sandwich) and "espetinhos" (barbecue) for sale, all of them are very delicious.
Belo Horizonte is not known as a tourist city, and the stadium is not near any of the city's most visited sites. If you are in town and want to visit some places, I'd recommend "Praça do Papa" (Pope's Square), where you can see one of the richest neighborhoods of the city and have a nice view of the whole city.
There's also Lagoa da Pampulha (Pampulha's Lake), where you have one of the most beautiful landscapes of the city, a nice architectural complex and the city's biggest stadium. Belo Horizonte is also the national's capital of bars, so, basically anywhere in the city you will find nice places to eat and drink. Near the stadium, I would recommend "Chef Tulio," just next to the "street of fire".
Atlético Mineiro has one of the most passionate fan bases in Brazil, and it rivals Cruzeiro for the most number of fans in the city. The fan base, "massa do Galo," can literally make the stadium shake.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find a team in Brazil that is going to use the full capacity of the stadium on all the matches. There are many factors to this, including the price of tickets, the appeal of the matches, the start time of the match, among others. It happens with the team in this stadium too. If you plan on visiting the stadium, you should first check the importance of the match. Usually, in low-appeal games, the stadium is at 50%-60% of its capacity.
The crowd has it peaks. When the team takes the field, it's absolutely crazy. Fireworks are often used, and the fans always scream the name of every player in the starting lineup, some of them having special songs dedicated to them. During the game, there's one part of the stadium that never stops singing, and it's usually followed by the rest of the fans. If the stadium is full and everybody is singing and jumping, the stadium shakes - and that's not a problem at all. Because of how the stadium is built, and how close people are to the field, fans can get pretty loud and intimidating. The team's anthem is often the song that most fans sing, because it has a nice tune and everybody knows it.
It's not that hard to get to the stadium. You can get there using the subway (even though there's just one line in the whole city), the bus or by car/taxi/Uber.
The problem is entering the stadium and finding a seat. That's one of the stadium's biggest issues.
The best way to get there is by car. Unfortunately it's not easy or cheap to park there. The stadium has its own parking, but trust me, don't try to use it. I've been to the stadium since it reopened in 2012 and I never heard of anyone who tried to use it. You have to go through a lot of people on the streets, it's hard to get in and leave. And it's very small, so you may not even find a spot.
It's possible to park on the streets, but it's hard to find a spot and you might have to pay someone around 20 reais to "watch it" (you better pay it or you risk having your car damaged). There are also some private parking lots on the avenue near the stadium, that will cost you around 20-30 reais. Notice that near the stadium the traffic is very slow, so, if you want to go by car, you have to get there as early as you can.
The subway station is just 600 meters from the stadium. Unfortunately it's not likely that you will be anywhere near a subway station to get you there.
The cheapest way to get you there is by bus. The bus fare in Belo Horizonte is 3,70, and you pay as you get on. It will take you around 30 minutes from downtown (Praça Sete) to get to the stadium. There are a lot of buses that go to the stadium or near it, so I would recommend using Google Maps to find out which one fits best for you based on where you are starting.
If you are planning to only visit the stadium and fly back home, keep in mind that the airport is located 40-50 minutes from the city downtown.
Getting to the venue is not the hard part. The problem is when you enter the stadium. Unfortunately, because of the site, it was not possible to build or create any access points, so on game day the streets surrounding the stadium are closed. In order to get inside, they use some fences to organize the line. You can't choose the gate you will enter, the gate is related to the section where you bought your ticket.
The lines are not well organized, and sometimes you will find lots of people trying to enter at the same time, with little outflow. There's not much information regarding the gates, causing some confusion. Arrive early as entering the stadium may take longer than you would expect.
When buying a ticket, you have to watch out for availability. In some matches, the sales for the general public doesn't even happen. The online sale starts only for the club associates, that pay around 35 reais for month. Then it opens for the associates who pay 13 reais a month. So it's possible that you won't be able to get tickets online in advance. Though, it's not hard to find people selling tickets around the stadium, but the price is going to be higher.
The sections have only one corridor each, and when lots of people are using the corridor - just before the game, during halftime and when people leave - the movement is very slow. The same happens with the bathrooms.
Another issue is getting to your seats, or even finding one. People stand in the stairway the whole game, so it's not easy to pass. The space between the rows is small, making it harder to walk through it.
There are places available for disabled people, but because of how people watch the game (standing), how the access to the stadium is handled, and the geography of the neighborhood, it's not a well-prepared place for disabled people.
Overall, the stadium and the experience provide a nice return on the investment, but this can change a bit depending on the prices of the tickets.
The best place to watch a match is in the lower stands, in the middle (gates 2 and 3), but if you want to spend less money, then the upper stand is also a great experience.
To get to the stadium, a good idea is to go by bus, find someone to drive you there or take an Uber (Uber fares in Belo Horizonte are way lower than taxi fares). To get back, taking the bus may not be a good idea, because of the time that most of the matches end. Particularly, I always do this when going to the stadium and it costs around 40 reais for three people combined (taking into account that I live 8 kms from the stadium).
If you are planning to visit the stadium, there are different approaches. If you are going with your family, it's nice to get there as much as two hours before the match, and get in the stadium to get a nice seat. If you plan to go there with your friends, you should get to the neighborhood three hours earlier, drink some beer, eat some local meals and then go to the arena.
There are no official stores surrounding or inside the arena, but you will see people selling some accessories, some replica jerseys and teams flags around the stadium. It's a very popular thing in Brazil, the so called "varais."
Inside the stadium, you can get a plastic cup with the team logo and the match you attended on it (7 reais).
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