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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Niedersachsen Stadion, now named AWD-Arena, located in the City of Hannover was actually constructed from 1952-1954 as an 86,000 seat stadium. It was partly built from materials harvested from the war rubble of this city, which was devastated in World War II. While undergoing numerous renovations and transformations, none were more extensive than that of 2003-04, when "'¬65-million was spent to convert this into a modern stadium seating 49,951, with a covered grandstand and many modern stadium amenities. The venue was also a host to the 1974 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Today the primary tenant is the Hannover 96 soccer team of the German Bundesliga.
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 offerings here are more of the basic stadium staples category, bratwurst, and pretzel stands. There might be specialty food items in the other grandstands but unfortunately those areas are not accessible to most fans.
The worst part of the concession experience here is that they do not accept cash in most places. One must pony up and buy a swipe card ("'¬3 for the initial card), then have it loaded with an amount you wish to purchase. That's one line. Then you buy your food/drink. That's another line. Oh, and they charge "'¬1 as a deposit for the beverage container, which you can return at the end of the game, presumably to have that amount reloaded onto your swipe card. It is all an inefficient hassle. Our two medium sized sodas and one pretzel ended up costing "'¬15"¦ in US funds that's around $20.25. Not good.
The grandstands are segregated here, so fans are not allowed 360 access around the concourses and must stay situated in the area of their seat location. The rowdiest fans here fill the south stands, and that's where banners, posters and flags adorn the rails and folks lead the chants and toot their horns. Expect to even see lit flares in the south stands when the home team scores their first goal. The Hannover 96 team also has a pretty good pregame buildup, with their signature fight song and player intros where fans shout out the last name of each member on their roster.
The stadium is located in the south part of the city, about 2 miles from the center and the main train station. There are mid rise residential buildings, a massive and sprawling fairground next door, parks, and numerous beer halls and outdoor beer gardens, all lending to a very festive and dynamic atmosphere on game day. Street vendors selling merchandise abound, and it's a good place to grab a beer or two before or after game. If you are here during the fall Oktoberfest or spring Fruhlingfest, then a postgame visit to the carnival next door, with the rides, food, drink, games and attractions, is an absolute must.
Like most Bundesliga venues, the fans are pretty loud and pretty rowdy. The stadium regularly sells out, and tickets are pretty hard to come by. Just to give a window on the passion of the fans"¦ back in 2009 a member of the Hannover 96 squad tragically took his own life. The folks here packed the stadium"¦ for his funeral.
Parking here is very limited, with only about 4000 spaces available nearby, and those spaces are in even greater demand during the spring Fruhlingfest or fall Oktoberfest, which is held at the adjacent fairgrounds. The cost for parking is "'¬3. The best bet is to park in the city and take the streetcar (lines 3, 7 or 9), or the U-bahn, exiting at either the Waterloo station or the Stadionbrucke station and from there it is a 7-10 minute walk to AWD-Arena.
Ticket prices run from a low of "'¬13 to a high of "'¬45. Car parking is "'¬3. So why the low score despite the very reasonable ticket prices? The aforementioned concession hassles, with the attendant swipe card fees, tacked on to pretty pricey food items ("'¬3,50 for a medium soda, "'¬3 for a pretzel, "'¬4,50 for a bratwurst) suggest to eat and drink up before or after the game and skip the food here.
Gameday public transportation to and from the stadium is free and included in the price of the ticket.
**Special Correspondent Andrew Kulyk is a stadium travel expert from Ultimate Sports Road Trip.
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