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Official Review by Matthew Nepgen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has a special place in the hearts of many sports fans in and around the Port Elizabeth area. Built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup it was originally a concern for South Africa as it seemed like the stadium was not going to be ready in time for 2010, but surprisingly it ended up being finished before any other world cup stadium in the country. Another fun fact is that many of the World Cup stadiums have struggled with the upkeep since the 2010 World Cup ended because most of the local sports teams have decided for whatever reason to keep playing in their original stadiums before the new ones were built. Not Port Elizabeth though. Since 2010 their local rugby team, the Southern Kings have made the stadium their home for Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has also hosted numerous events like the world sevens series, international test rugby matches, and live concerts/performances from famous singers.
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".
The food and beverage available at the stadium is probably the biggest disappointment in your game experience. They never got food chains or franchises to buy stalls inside the stadium, and therefore have the same generic stores in and around the entire stadium. The stores are provided by the stadium and sell the simplest of things including drinks, chips, hot dogs, burgers, but there really is no variety to suit all taste buds. They do not have a single vegetarian option, and the only sweet things you can get are Cadbury chocolate bars.
This stadium is known for its amazing atmosphere. In 2012, the day after Nelson Mandela passed away, the South African national sevens rugby team played New Zealand in the final. To this day, when the players have been asked what is the best crowd they've ever played before, they all look no further than that PE crowd the day the Blitzbokke (the national sevens team) won the final versus New Zealand. They also point out that the National Anthem always sounds a bit more special in Port Elizabeth than anywhere else in South Africa.
There isn't really any public transportation available to the stadium, but luckily there is plenty of parking space with fields all around the stadium. The congestion makes it interesting getting home after the match. The stadium is built beside a lake so it is a picturesque area and is as safe a place as you will find. Overall though the neighborhood doesn't provide many options in terms of adding atmosphere to the overall experience.
The fans are the number one reason as to why the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium has such an amazing atmosphere! Everyone is there to have a good time, and they all really get into the action. You have to be there to really understand what a PE crowd is like. They are unique compared to any other crowd in South Africa. Port Elizabeth's nickname is "the friendly city" so you can imagine the fans in the stadium are all pretty great in terms of welcoming guests.
There are no issues when it comes to getting in and around the stadium. There are three different entrance points to choose from, as well as a walking area around the outside of the stadium. Inside the gates, where the food stalls are, the walkways all go right around the stadium and therefore you can pretty much get wherever you're looking to go just by walking in the right direction. There won't be any obstacles that will block your way. The stadium also empties out really well, which is why driving home can be quite a thing because everybody gets to their cars quickly.
Overall it is a stadium you must visit if ever you are in South Africa. The experience will be unique and won't be found anywhere else in the country, so it is worth it just for that. It lets itself down by not offering any public transportation, and also having really bad food stalls, but despite this, it is still a must see when coming to South Africa.
Bring your own food if you can as it is the only thing that could detract from the great experience you will have at the stadium. The history and passionate fans make this a great experience overall.
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