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Official Review by Jason Marquitz, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
When Estadio Azul opened its doors in 1947, it was in the far reaches of Mexico City. It has since been swallowed by the megalopolis and is the most centrally located major stadium of the capital city. It has gone through name changes and swapped its home team a few times, but remains largely unfazed. Estadio Azul is built in a pit with the field being well below ground level so it looks rather diminutive and unimposing from the outside. Yet upon entering the 35,000 seat stadium, the impressive structure opens to a great place to watch some Mexican soccer.
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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 food available at Estadio Azul may not be high in quality, but is most certainly high in comedy. The selections are rather interesting for the environment. Trays of donuts, cups of ramen noodles, and slightly cooked Dominos Pizzas are all readily available. Chips, 'canasta' tacos, and hamburgers can also be found. I can't stress highly enough that only utter desperation should force you to purchase any food items within the stadium. The good news is that if you are pushed to this, everything is economical (around 25 to 30 pesos ... about 2 dollars) and plenty of hot sauce will be available to supplement the flavor. The "get what you pay for" axiom more than applies here.
Like many stadiums in Mexico, the best food can be found immediately outside the stadium walls. In fact, some of the food stalls outside of Estadio Azul carry a reputation for great food among non-soccer attendees. These are also not your ordinary taco stands. There is ample seating with table service and some even have flat screen televisions playing other games around the league.
The general atmosphere at a Cruz Azul home game is interesting. There are several themes and characters associated with the squad on display before and during the match. There is a pervasive train theme that finds its way around the stadium. From the inflatable locomotive tunnels to the persistent train whistles, there is no mistake about the team's nickname, La Maquina (The Machine). Cruz Azul was originally founded as a workers' team for the Cruz Azul cement company. Today, the team is still owned by the cement company and has the company as its primary sponsor. Hence, there are plenty of cement themed items around the stadium. During pregame and halftime, giant inflatable cement bags sit on the sidelines. You can also pick up a backpack fashioned to look like a cement bag from a passing vendor. To top off this mix, the mascot that leads pregame and halftime festivities is a large rabbit. As a season ticket holder, I honestly, have no idea why.
Seating is split in to the larger lower level and the smaller upper ring. Tickets prices vary according to opponent, date, and situation. However, the upper ring, which is general admission, is normally about half the price of the lower seating areas. The areas at the two ends are reserved for the home and visiting fan groups. The large fences that separate these areas from the rest of the stadium make this abundantly clear. There is also a ring of palcos (boxes) that are between the two levels. They are basically the luxury suites for a stadium that was opened in the 40s. There's not a ton of luxury involved in them, but they can be pretty reasonable if you are going with a sizable group to a match (as low as $400 for eight seats).
There aren't really any bad seats in this stadium, unless it starts to rain. Everything but the palcos are uncovered, and will be getting a full dose of the rainfall.
Estadio Azul sits in the Ciudad de Los Deportes neighborhood of Mexico City. It is a stadium that has been surrounded by the sprawl of the city. Apartments, office buildings, grocery stores, and other essential parts of a city make up the immediate surroundings of the stadium. Due to its location, the road that runs a ring around the outside of the stadium gets an ample amount of traffic on weekdays but is closed down and filled in with vendors on game days.
There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the surrounding area that get plenty of action on game days, but probably none pull as much business as the taco stands. However, the most notable site in this area is the stadium's immediate neighbor, Plaza Mexico. Plaza Mexico is the largest bullring in the world and still holds bullfights on a regular schedule. With a capacity of 45,000, this mammoth can be seen from inside the stadium and the surrounding areas.
Cruz Azul is known as one of the "big four" of Mexican soccer. It has a large fan base that often goes back a generation or two. While the stadium doesn't always fill up for the lesser matches, it does contain a group of fans that can and will offer the manager plenty of advice on roster moves and substitution needs.
The supporters section, largely constituted of a group known as La Sangre Azul (The Blue Blood), is always in attendance and in full force. They have a full selection of chants, drums, flags, and banners in support of the team.
One thing that makes Estadio Azul stand out from many other stadiums around Mexico is how welcoming the fans are of visiting supporters. Estadio Azul generally remains a pretty tame environment where children are readily present. Visiting fans are often mixed among the home supporters with little cause for concern. Even during heated rivalries and playoff atmospheres, the mixed crowd creates few problems.
For the majority of Mexico City, Estadio Azul is by far the easiest of the three major soccer stadiums to reach. It is located the nearest to the Centro and the most heavily frequented areas of the city.
Using the metro system to reach the stadium is the best method. The San Antonio stop of Line Seven is about a ten minute walk from the gates. Traveling by car or taxi could be less than ideal. Traffic in the area could sometimes be a problem and there is no consistently available parking in the vicinity. With a metro ride costing three pesos (about a quarter) from anywhere within the city, it's a no brainer.
The stadium is a testament to its age without many of the bright, shining amenities. Handicapped accessibility is limited and challenging and the tight corridor that all visitors use for exiting and entering the stadium can get a little cumbersome. This narrow hallway allows you to become better acquainted with the other spectators at the conclusion of the match, as there is little room for personal space.
On the way into the stadium there are a series of two security check points ... the police and stadium officials. Both groups will be checking for the same things. Bags will be searched and a full pat down will take place. Belts, large bookbags, and cameras that are larger than the handheld variety are not permitted in the stadium.
This stadium doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles (not counting the train whistles, of course), but it is a great place to watch a game. Cruz Azul is historically one of the most successful clubs in Mexico and generally has a competitive and compelling team. With the quality of the Mexican league in general, the chances of seeing some top-notch talent on display are great. Therefore, the consistently low ticket prices are very much a bargain (prices range from about $25 to $7).
It cannot be stressed enough how much easier Estadio Azul is to get to than Estadio Azteca or Estadio Olimpico on the UNAM campus. Unlike the other two stadiums, Azul can be accessed via metro and is significantly closer to the heart of the city. In a city absolutely choked with traffic, this is a highly valuable asset.
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