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Official Review by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Dusseldorf, one of the Catholic cities in the Nordrhein Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia) region of Germany, is more known for its very expensive shopping street ‘Königsallee” (der Kö) than for its football team. The city endured heavy bombing during World War II, and as such is not a city to visit for its medieval architecture. During the war, the first bombs fell on Dusseldorf and all bridges were demolished and about 50% of the buildings were gone. It was a heavy blow.
The Rheinstadion was officially opened in the year 1925, then hosting about 42,500 spectators. The official opening game was in 1926, between Germany and The Netherlands, for a well over capacity crowd of 60,000. The Germans won that day 4-2.
In the years after the war, not much happened to the stadium, but as Germany was awarded the 1974 World Cup, a plan was arranged to make the stadium fit as a host stadium. For an astonishing 46 million Deutschmarks (at that time about the same as 200 million dollars), architects Tamms and Beyer had the stadium rebuilt, refurbished and the official capacity was raised from 40,000 to a whopping 68,400. The stadium had an advanced flood light system and the field was equipped with a great drainage system, making it playable almost all the time.
In 1977, the stadium was used for the World Athletics Championships, giving the stadium a new track and installing a track and field indoor arena nearby. After further renovations, the capacity of the stadium was brought down to 55,000, mostly due to the conversion of standing areas into seating areas.
In the 1990s, the stadium was also used by the NFL Europe power Rhein Fire. The American Football team generated great crowds, mostly selling out the venue, which was unseen throughout the whole of NFL Europe.
In the beginning of this century, as Germany was awarded the 2006 World Cup, the organization once again chose Dusseldorf as one of the host cities. It initiated a process to refurbish and eventually replace the old Rheinstadion. The plan was to make it into a multifunctional arena, installing VIP boxes, a roof and truly making it a multifunctional venue. It has since been used for the Catholic World Youth Days, for indoor motor events, concerts, and ice hockey games (Kolner Haie against Dusseldorf in front of a record 51,000 people).
The stadium, in the end was built for 54,600 people, with 1,700 business seats and a total of 10,000 standing area spots, to create a better atmosphere. It became known as Esprit Arena.
The home team Fortuna Dusseldorf has the funny record of hosting the best visited 3. Bundesliga game, with its promotion game in 2009, hosting 50,095 spectators that day.
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".
Welcome to Germany, the country of beer and bratwurst! The Esprit Arena has its fair share of beer and bratwurst outlets, all at reasonable prices. Get yourself a normal bratwurst for only €2,90 and a Krakauer for €3,90. Your beer can be had for €4 (plus €1 deposit for the glass). Beers to choose from are Alt (local specialty) or a regular lager. Also, radler (a low alcohol variant on beer) is for sale. For food, go for a Bretzel (€3) or a Cheese Bretzel (€3,5).
There are multiple outlets throughout the whole stadium and you shouldn't be waiting to get your stomach satisfied.
In the stadium, there's one small area of really active fans, who have a so called 'capo' to fire up the crowd. Normally, a larger crowd will be engaged in the singing, but now there is only this small group that is vocal during the game. Just don't expect a rowdy, bustling atmosphere.
It isn't helping that the stadium is basically too big for the club. Its capacity of 54,600 is too much for a mediocre 2. Bundesliga club. As for a couple years back, they we're still playing Regionalliga, 4th level in Germany, so at least the club is moving forward.
The stadium is located on the outside of town with nothing to mention in the area. Pre match drinking can be done either in the city (with a good connection to the ground) or after you enter the area. Normally, you'll have some pre match drinking done in the parking lot, but there is none of that here. Go there for the football, then go home.
If you want to enjoy some good German hospitality, go into the city centre, find yourself a spot in one of the beer houses and get carried away with the crowd. Beers won't cost you a fortune and you have plenty to choose from.
The fans of Dusseldorf have not been treated to the great football you will see in the Bundesliga, so the fact they come out in pretty large numbers is indeed something to be mentioned. During my most recent visit fans were all dressed in Carnaval costumes, as it was about that time. The fans were more concerned with getting in the most amount of alcohol to get through the day than with the game itself.
Expect them to be somewhat knowledgeable about football in general and about their team, but as was experienced, fans were partly day-trippers.
The Esprit Arena is on the outskirts of Dusseldorf. Access, though, is perfect. There's a train/tram station next to the stadium, leading you straight into town. Also, arriving by car is really easy as there's an absolutely huge parking lot next to the ground. A short 10 minute walk and you're in your seat. As for the disabled, there's easy access through ramps and nice spots on the lower stands. Parking is easy, it's only a €5 payment. For a multifunctional arena, this one lives up to the expectations when it comes to access.
The football level is abominable, but that's not a reason to either like or dislike a venue. The biggest dislike of the venue is the fact it is only filled to 50% of its capacity. The owners should do better to not sell tickets to the second tier, making it a more evenly divided amount of spectators throughout the whole stadium. At the time of the visit, most supporters were in the home short side, leaving the rest of the stadium almost empty.
Furthermore, the stadium is ugly from the outside (a rectangular box is not very appealing), and the atmosphere on the inside is not one to write home about. Ticket prices are reasonable.
There is a fan shop inside, where you can find some memorabilia of the club.
Another extra is that ESPRIT Arena is located less than 3 km away from the Düsseldorf-Airport. So, the arena can be easily reached by foreign supporters who want to attend an international match there.
It's weird that you don't have a real pre game experience at Dusseldorf. So many clubs in Germany, you can expect a great atmosphere inside and outside the stadium, but this one doesn't live up to any of these expectations. It's too bad. Pick another club in the area, but do visit the city. It's a great place for an evening out!
Member Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard on Jul 31, 2013
The ESPRIT arena is a multifunctional football (soccer) stadium with a capacity for 54,600 spectators in the German city of Düsseldorf. It is situated on the right bank of the river Rhine in the Stockum-area of the city. ESPRIT Arena has been the home to German football club Fortuna Düsseldorf since 2004, and replaced the former Rhein Stadium which stood on the same spot.
The construction of ESPRIT Arena took over 2 years (2002–2004). The total project costs are estimated at some €218 million ($289.4 million). On the 18 January 2005, the stadium was opened, and at that time, the stadium had a capacity of 51,500. After the removal of chairs in some designated areas, the capacity increased to the current capacity of 54,600. Nowadays, there are 9,917 standing places in the arena. The stadium has a roof that can be closed and has a special heating system to give maximum comfort to the spectators in the winter.
ESPRIT Arena wasn’t selected by FIFA to be one the playing venues during the 2006 World Cup, which was held in Germany. The American footballers of Rhein Fire played their home games in the ESPRIT Arena until 2007. On 29 June 2007, the NFL announced NFL Europe would immediately cease operations.
On the 10th, 12th and 14th of May 2011, the 56th Eurovision Song Contest 2011 was held in the ESPRIT Arena. The arena was temporarily renamed Arena Düsseldorf, as the current sponsor of the arena (Esprit Holdings) didn’t obtain the naming rights to the festival.
(Note: all exchange rates are as of the time of this posting, July 2013.)
Member Review by pryce11 on Mar 24, 2014
shame it was 3/4 empty when we visted but i always enjoy standing in the terracing and it was easy to get too.
quality of football on show was dire though.
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