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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The newly built multi-purpose Friends Arena is home to both A.I.K. Stockholm and the Swedish National Soccer Team. The venue has also been built to host other major events and has three different capacity levels. These are set at 60,000 for concerts, 50,000 for soccer and the stadium can be scaled down to 20,000 for smaller events.
The stadium’s facade can be lighted up to many different colour schemes including the yellow and blue of the national team. The stadium’s other main feature is the large media cube which hangs from the centre of the stadium enabling supporters to view replays of the match action.
Built for comfort, the stadium has already hosted many sold out pop concerts. The first international soccer game was played in November 2012 between Sweden and England, and AIK’s first competitive game at the arena drew a club record attendance of 43,463.
In 2013, the Swedish sport of Bandy hosted its Championship Final under the stadium’s closed roof where another attendance record was smashed. With the more recently built Tele 2 Arena, Stockholm has two excellent stadiums to be proud of. However, as the largest soccer and indoor stadium in the Nordic Countries, the Friends Arena will always be big brother to all other stadiums in this region of the world.
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 are many food and drink kiosks inside the stadium that limit queuing to a minimum. There is a wide range of food and drink on offer and the quality is good. Be prepared however to pay through the nose for it.
I would have to attend a Swedish national soccer match to gauge the stadium's atmosphere to assess its full value. The AIK game that I attended was watched by less than 15,000 fans which in a stadium of 50,000 seats were lost. However when full and particularly when the roof is closed one would imagine the venue to be noisy and atmospheric.
Stockholm itself, although expensive, is an ideal location for a city break. The city is built over fourteen islands and offers a wide range of museums, and other activities. A visit to the Royal Palace is highly recommended as are boat trips which are available from outside the Grand Hotel.
Gamla Stan is a must for those that like the old town. It is here where you will find the Café Kakbrinken, whose ice cream is highly recommended. We stayed in the Elite Hotel Arcadia which was good value, and also only a five minute walk from the Olympic Stadium. The recently opened ABBA museum is also a must for those who can remember their music.
AIK supporters can be noisy and colourful, and possess a solid hard core fan base of around 15,000. Despite the luxury surroundings that they now watch their soccer in, home will always be the Rasunda. If things can improve on the pitch, then crowds will increase and hopefully one day the AIK fans and the Friends Arena will witness Champions League soccer.
The stadium is located in the Solna district of the city and adjacent to Solna Station which is a seven minute journey from Stockholm Central and the arena is about a ten minute walk from here. Solna Central and Nackrosen metro stations are both within walking distance. If travelling by car the venue can be accessed by exiting junction 167 of the E4/E20 motorway. Parking is restricted whilst the stadium's surrounding areas are developed, but will gradually improve.
For comfort and facilities the Friends Arena is up there with the other new modern day stadia developments. Some match day tickets are expensive for the quality of football on display. However most matches will not be sold out and buying a cheaper ticket still enables you to walk around the inner concourse and sit where you choose within reason.
Match day programmes are available inside the stadium priced at two Swedish Krona. AIK replica shirts and other souvenirs can be purchased from stalls both inside and outside of the stadium. The large media screen that hovers over the pitch and hundreds of TV's on the inner concourse ensures that you don't miss any of the action.
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