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Official Review by Tom Marshall, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Estadio Omnilife is home to Mexico's most successful and best supported soccer team, Guadalajara Chivas. The stadium opened in July 2010 with a high profile sell-out game between the locals and Manchester United.
Located on the northwestern edge of Guadalajara, outside the beltway, the 45,000-capacity Estadio Omnilife is one of the most modern stadiums in all of Latin America but has come under criticism from locals due to problems getting to and from the ground, high prices and lack of amenities outside.
Nevertheless, set against rolling hills and built to imitate a volcano, it is difficult not to be impressed by the aura of the place.
Estadio Omnilife is a monument to modernity and compares favorably with modern soccer stadia in Europe. It is also a world away from Chivas´ old stadium, the crumbling Estadio Jalisco. The problem is that many fans of Chivas, traditionally Mexico's working class soccer team, miss the days back in the Estadio Jalisco, where the stadium was part of the community, the smell of tacos filled the air and beer was not as expensive.
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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 problem here is the cost of what is on offer - two bottles of beer (60 pesos), pizza (65 pesos), torta ahogada (55 pesos), hot dog (35 pesos) - combined with the lack of what is on offer outside the stadium. The quality of the food is good inside but paying over five dollars for a pizza in Mexico is prohibitive for many.
Tip: During big games, many groups arrive in the huge parking lot behind the stadium a few hours before kickoff, set up a barbecue and some chairs, open some beers (make sure there is a designated driver) and, well, you can imagine the rest.
This depends somewhat on who is playing, but the stadium is not one of those intimate ones where the sound carries from one end to the other. The porra (hardcore supporters group) has its own standing area behind the goals on one side of the stadium and, if you are brave and want to really get involved, is the place to be. Be warned though, it sometimes gets a little rough.
Tip: If planning a trip to watch soccer in Guadalajara, try and make it for when Chivas play Mexico City rivals Club America. The crowd is mixed, the passion intense and the stadium comes to life.
This is a classic out-of-town stadium with only greenery surrounding it. It is located about 20 kilometers from the Guadalajara city center. A trip to the stadium is very much just that. There is nothing else to see.
Chivas fans are generally a friendly bunch and the mentality is very much to go to the stadium and have a good time. They come from all over the country and from further afield to watch the big games. Chivas is a Mexican institution and one of the best supported soccer teams in the world. However, locals have not been going to watch their team at the Omnilife in the same numbers as before. Many do not like owner Jorge Vergara's attempts to modernize the club. Traditional working-class Chivas fans tend to feel excluded and out-priced. Having said that, everyone seems to find a few extra pesos when a big team comes to town.
Work is ongoing to improve transport access to the stadium which currently has only one route in and one route out. Traffic is therefore a major problem. Getting out after the game can take up to an hour depending on the attendance.
From the center of Guadalajara, head up Avenida Vallarta until you reach the Periferico (beltway/ringroad). Take the Periferico Sur and a few kilometers later you will see the stadium. It is well signposted.
For those of you taking flights to Mexico from companies like Thomson, the major airport in Guadalajara is about a 30 minute drive south of Estadio Omnilife.
Unfortunately this all depends on the game. A drab affair against one of Mexico's lesser teams in front of 20,000 people would probably get a 2 out of 5 and one would go home having seen an excellent stadium but perhaps not having had the true Mexican soccer experience. However, a full house against Club America is a whole different ball game and an incredible experience that is well worth the inflated prices. It almost feels like the Estadio Omnilife, in its grandeur, was made for such games and rises to the occasion.
There is no other stadium in Mexico that offers this degree of modernity and every seat in the stadium offers an excellent view of the game. The artifical turf also means the stadium can be used for large concerts. The Estadio Omnilife will also be the venue for the opening and closing ceremony for the Pan American Games.
Whilst in Guadalajara, a tour of the stadium and a visit to the museum is well worth the 99 peso cost and run Tuesday to Sunday at 10:30, 12:00, 15:00 and 16:00 but not on game days or the day after. Chivas is Mexico's most storied team with 11 league championship titles and the museum holds an impressive amount of memorabilia telling the story of the history of the team, from humble beginnings to the massive club it is today.
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