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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Now how many sports venues can you find that are named after one of the wives of King Henry VIII who he offed during his reign as the King of England? The Boleyn Ground stands on the once Green Street home of Anne Boleyn, who visited here back in the day and whose home affectionately became known as "Boleyn's Castle". Today a 35,000-seat soccer venue stands on this site, and the stadium is actually more commonly known as "Upton Park" in deference to this neighborhood in northeast London.
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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".
Being an older stadium, not too much attention is given to food presentation. Soda pop, tea, hot chocolate, and coffee are available, as are local draft beers, which must be consumed in the concourses and are expressly forbidden to be carried into the stands. Pot pies and sausages are also available with candy and chips. Fans wanting good stuff to eat and drink should save their appetites for any one of the many concession vendors and portable carts lining Green Street before and after the game. The smell of grilling brats and burgers and other tantalizing tastes are everywhere. A number of pubs and ethnic cuisine, offering pizza, Vietnamese and Chinese food can also be found along Green Street.
The stadium is divided into four sides or "stands", and the Trevor Brooking Stand, on the south side of the stadium, is the noisiest and most boisterous. That's where the "away" fans sit, segregated from the rest of the crowd via barricades and a heavy police presence. The "rowdies" as they call them, sit, or should we say, stand for most of the game and sing songs and hurl insults at the visiting players and their contingent of supporters. The cacophony of noise and music wafts throughout the rest of the venue.
Upton Park is a gritty hard-scrabbled neighborhood northeast of London, and is accessible via the Tube's District Line (Upton Park station). Once you exit the Tube, be prepared for a hubbub of bars, pubs, street vendors, roving carts, a true festival atmosphere for the half mile or so walk down Green Street towards the stadium. The housing is a bit shabby and run down, the stadium, with its castle like turrets on the façade, are the signature of the building, and game day the place truly hops and comes alive.
English Premier League fans are so loyal and so passionate, and here in West Ham it just percolates and boils over into the streets, despite the fact that the team is in the doldrums and has trailed the rest of the EPL pack in recent seasons, always in danger of relegation to a lower league. The team sells out most of its regular season matches.
There is no automobile parking onsite, which means that on street parking is your best bet if coming by car. Most fans use public transportation. The Upton Park Tube station is about a 45-minute ride from Central London and is on the District Line. There is also rail service available from about a 20-minute walk away at the Stratford Mainline Station or Barking Mainline Station. Prepare for a bit of a crush while entering the Tube after the game as the lines are long but trains run pretty regularly and things move along quickly.
Ticket prices here are grouped into three categories, A+, A and B pricing, depending on the quality of the opponent (powerhouse teams like Chelsea and Manchester United command A prices). Regular ticket prices run from £51-£69 for the A+ games. There are significant discounts for young people, disabled and seniors.
A sports book named SBOBET runs a betting agency right on premises, offering handicapping on the match in the building as well as other betting options for away games that same night. Interestingly, changeable odds stream on an LED ticker in each end zone throughout the game, displaying the betting odds for halftime score, who to wager on as the goal scorers in that match, and other configurations of wagering.
Gameday presentation is kept to a minimum, with nothing much other than pregame team introductions, no singing of national anthems, no zany videos on the video board, t-shirt tosses, horns going off for goals or artificial chants. The fans make the music with their crazy and irreverent songs and chants throughout the match.
There is talk that the West Ham United FC would like to move into the nearby Olympic Stadium in Stratford once the 2012 Olympic Games are concluded. Nothing has been made official yet. That new stadium will be shrunken down after the Olympics.
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