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Official Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
After playing for 80 years (1923–2003) at historic Maine Road, it was time for Manchester City Football Club to leave their outdated ground. Therefore, they decided in August 2003 to move to the new City of Manchester Stadium. In 2002, the first public event at that stadium was the Commonwealth Games (the stadium had a capacity of 41,000 at that time). Just after these Games, it became public that Manchester City would become the new tenants of the ground. With that decision, they broke the heart of their most loyal fans, but a move was inevitable to keep up with the top teams in English football (soccer).
Manchester City spent £20 million in rebuilding what was then called City of Manchester Stadium. The running track was removed, the pitch was lowered by some 6 metres, and another tier was added close to the ground (this lower tier became the 1st tier). This tier added a further 7,000 seats to the existing capacity.
Manchester City announced in 2011 a sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways. The stadium was renamed to Etihad Stadium for the next 10 years. The sheiks from Abu Dhabi didn't buy just a new name to the stadium, though. The owner of the club, Sheikh Mansour, invested his oil dollars big time to strengthen the squad. Many top players joined Manchester City in the last couple of years, which resulted in winning the team's first Premier League title in 2012, and the first top-flight title for the team in 44 years. Now, the main task for the club is to conquer Europe and win the Champions League. Spanish giants Real Madrid are their big example, as they have won this title already 9 times.
Last year, Manchester City announced their plans to increase the capacity again. This will probably happen by adding an additional tier to both ends. The capacity will then be somewhere around 60,000. Both stands on the long side of the pitch are almost identical by being three tiered with a row of executive suites between the second and third tier. Both ends have just two tiers, but will have probably three tiers in the near future, as well. The roof of the stadium runs all around the stadium and is lower behind both ends, giving it a spectacular view. The stadium also has 2 large video screens in opposite corners of the ground. Outside the ground, there is a memorial to former Manchester City player Marc-Vivien Foe who died in a match with the Cameroon national team in 2003.
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".
There is a large variety of food, including burgers, hot dogs, chips, and several pies. Of course, there is also a large choice of sodas and beers available inside the stadium. A pint of beer will cost you £3.20 or £3.40, and you can choose from John Smith's, Forster's and Strongbow. Please note that it's not allowed to bring beer into the stands.
During the match I attended against Fulham, the atmosphere was pretty good. The Manchester City supporters were very vocal this day. As City took an early lead, there was an immediate, positive atmosphere inside the ground.
Manchester City has, in my opinion, the silliest looking mascots in the Premier League. Their mascots are a pair of friendly, funny-looking creatures with big ears called Moonchester and Moonbeam. They sometimes take a seat in the stands and watch the match alongside the spectators. Interested how these creatures look? Just check out the photos above.
There aren't too many pubs around the ground, so most fans prefer to drink in the centre of Manchester before making the walk to the stadium. As the stadium is more or less situated in a residential area, the pubs are rare. But there is a large area just outside the stadium especially for fans who attend the match. There are a couple of large bars where you can buy your drinks and your regular stadium food. There is also a big stage with large LCD screens showing everything (like interviews and match highlights) of Manchester City Football Club.
The fans were really friendly. There was no tension at all in and around the ground. Manchester City has a large fanbase in the UK and attracts supporters mostly from Manchester itself. Since moving to the Etihad Stadium, the average attendances have been in the top five in England.
The stadium is located in the east of Manchester and is about 2.5 kilometres away from Manchester's city centre. A walk from the city centre to the stadium takes you about 30 minutes. There are a number of frequent buses from all directions to Etihad Stadium.
The easiest way to travel to the stadium is by the new metro line which connects Piccadilly Station directly with the Etihad Stadium. When you arrive by car, leave the M62 at Junction 18. Please keep in mind that street parking can be a problem in the near surroundings of the stadium!
The facilities are pretty good (which is to be expected inside a new ground), with spacious concourses and large LCD televisions screens showing the game.
We bought our tickets for the Fulham game online. Tickets fall into several pricing categories depending on which part of the stadium you are in. For a 2nd tier corner ticket (one of the cheapest categories), we paid £35.00. Tickets for a central seat at the main stand can be double the price which we paid for our tickets.
Manchester City offers guided stadium tours around the Etihad, which include visits to the players' tunnel, some part of the stands, dressing room, and press conference room. The tour costs £12.00 (adults).
A match day programme can be bought at the ground for £3.
Another bonus are the famous players in the first team squad: Joe Hart, Maicon, Vincent Kompany (captain), James Milner, Samir Nasri, Edin Džeko, Sergio Kun Agüero, Gareth Barry, David Silva, Carlos Tévez, Kolo, and Yaya Touré (vice-captain), and Mario Balotelli are just a few names you will see when visiting a home match at the Etihad Stadium.
It was an amazing day, and a great experience! It was worth the £35.00 which I paid for my ticket, and I would come back to the Etihad Stadium any time, as fans of Manchester City Football Club were very approachable and very friendly. Great stadium, great team, and great players.
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