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Official Review by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Imtech Arena aka Volksparkstadion Hamburg, home of the Hamburger Sport Verein (HSV) lies in the Altona district of ‘hanzestadt’ Hamburg.
HSV plays in the 1. Bundesliga, the highest competition in Germany. They have a strong rivalry with Werder Bremen and crosstown rival St. Pauli.
The stadium was built in between 1951 and 1953. On the 12th of July, 1953, the stadium was opened under its new name Volksparkstadion. Most of the building materials came from the ruins of Eimsbuttel, a district of Hamburg destroyed by the bombings of the Allied Forces during World War II. The stadium could hold up to 75,000 fans and continued to be used for the various sporting events of the city.
It was used during the FIFA 1974 World Cup and the European Football Championships Euro ’88 which was held in Germany. During the period from 1998-2000, the stadium was totally demolished, rotated 90 degrees and built up again. The stadium was again taken into use in 2000. Its capacity was brought back to 57,000 during club team matches and to only 51,500 during international team matches. It was also used during the FIFA 2006 World Cup.
HSV has been the inhabitant and home team since 1963, when they moved in from another spot in Hamburg, called Rotherbaum.
The popular name for the stadium is still Volksparkstadion, also because of the location, right in the middle of the ‘volkspark’. The real name is now (since 2010) Imtech Arena.
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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".
When you enter a German football arena, there are a couple of things you can expect: Beer and Bratwurst! That's what the Germans are known for and that's what they bring to the table. But that's not the only thing they have in store for you. You can get Bretzel, fries and more fast food.
Prices at Imtech Arena are reasonable. Beers are around 4 euros, and, what is absolutely unseen in normal European football arenas, they bring it to your seat.
The fans in the arena are some of the most faithful in the country and that translates into the atmosphere in the stadium. During my most recent visit we were sitting in a home team section, where not everybody was cheering so intensely, but we could feel the importance of the game. What they always do is lift a famous Hamburg popstar on a platform which is then lifted into the air. He will play the song 'Hamburg is meine perle' (Hamburg is my pearl). It get's the crowd going and that helps.
They have entertainment during the half time (some lottery or whatever we could get from the German commentary). Despite the team's place in the rankings (low for this particular 2012 season) the stadium was almost sold out, the atmosphere was very good and most of all, there was no real hostility against the away fans (normally seen at football matches).
Ever been to a college team tailgate? Well, that's what this area looks like. The park in which the stadium is located is rather distant from the city center and if you look at a map or wikipedia or barfinder, you won't find any real 'bars' around there.
But there's quite a surprise when you walk out of the Altona subway station. The first thing you'll enter is one big German Beer Garden. The whole park is designated as a drinking area and at almost every corner, there's a 'stube' where you can get a nice pint of German Delight (aka Beer). Nice bratwurst stands and very reasonable prices also abound. It makes the 20 minute walk (you can choose to take the bus, but if you're able do take the walk) very pleasant and adds to the atmosphere.
The area beside the stadium is really nice, surrounded by natural beauty with a friendly look and feel.
If you are done with the football, Hamburg is a city with loads of entertainment (burlesque bars, a red light district, yes, and loads of other nightlife fun). Don't forget to end at the Fischmarkt! It's an amazing market place which has loads of fish among other treats, but come early.
As said before, the fans of the HSV are one of the most devoted and faithful football fans in the Bundesliga. They have brought standing room back to the stadium (which is not allowed during UEFA/FIFA games) and this brings an extra kick to the fans (and adds to the atmosphere as well). They come out in large numbers. They sing, jump, scream and really live the game.
They have a large number of fan clubs (beside the official HSV fan club).
Hamburg is a port city which is easily accessible by plane, car and train. The area of the stadium is accessible by underground from the Altona station. From the stadium you can take the walk (which is recommended) or you can grab one of the many shuttle buses. In the stadium, everything is very accessible as well.
Imtech Arena, and a HSV game, provides a large return on the investment. You could have a great seat for the game, for about 30 euro's, see some good football, have a good German beer or lager, some bratwurst and enjoy yourself. The atmosphere is really good, the fans are great and the German Bundesliga has some really top notch football. I would highly recommend a visit.
Among the many extras, there's the possibility of a stadium Tour, a nice museum about the history of the stadium and of course the history of the HSV football club. I think the beer garden is an extra as well, but that's a personal one.
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