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Official Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Ipswich is located in Suffolk, and is one of the oldest cities in England. Ipswich is located on the estuary of the River Orwell and has 113,000 inhabitants. Ipswich is situated in the region of East Anglia and is the home of Ipswich Town Football Club.
Portman Road Stadium is the home ground of Ipswich Town FC. Since the 2008-09 season, Ipswich has competed in the Football League Championship, the second football division of England. The last time the club played in the Premier League was in the 2001-02 season.
Portman Road Stadium has four stands (the Britannia Stand, Cobbold Stand, Sir Alf Ramsey Stand and the Sir Bobby Robson Stand), with a total capacity of 30,311 covered seats.
Ipswich Town FC was founded in 1878 and in 1884 Ipswich Town moved to the sports field at Portman Road. This field was also used at that time by the local cricket club. The first permanent stand at this field was nicknamed the Chicken Run and was built in 1906.
In 1936 Ipswich Town FC became a professional football club and the cricket club had to leave the field. Between 1936 and 1938 wooden bleachers were built on the north and south sides of the field, which were replaced in 1954 by concrete stands.
Between 1957 and 1960 a new western grandstand (Britannia Stand) and floodlights were built. In 1971 the old stand on the east side of the field was replaced by the new Cobbold Stand. In 2000 stands on the north and south sides were substantially renovated and an extra tier was added to get the Portman Road Stadium to its current capacity.
The local rivals of Ipswich Town are: Norwich City and Colchester United.
In 2003 the first and so far only international match was played inside the stadium as England took on Croatia in a friendly match.
The stadium is sometimes also the venue for concerts. In its long history the Portmand Road Stadium has hosted performances by Elton John, R.E.M, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dire Straits, Neil Diamond, and Rod Stewart.
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 a few counters underneath the stands where you can buy drinks and food. The variety to choose from is reasonable. There are various sodas and beers, but you can also go for a coffee or tea. Food on offer inside the stadium includes hamburgers, hot dogs (£3.30), a large choice of pies (£2.80), and sausage rolls (£2.80).
With its four separate stands, the stadium is very compact and all stands are close to the pitch. This is what I like most about English football grounds. Not that the Portman Road Stadium is a favourite ground in England, but it is certainly somewhere near the Top 10. As everyone inside the ground is so close to the action, this stadium can be overwhelming for visiting teams. All the seats inside the ground are coloured blue (in the club colours of Ipswich Town) and have backing.
Portman Road is located in the city centre of Ipswich and is just 5 minutes walk from the Ipswich main railway station. As the stadium is situated so close to the city centre, it's also close to one of my favourite shopping centres in England "the Buttermarket" where you can find many pubs (the Swan, Manning's and the Old Rep) for a pre-match drink or a post-match meal. As they serve pub food in the Old Rep, you can have a Sunday Roast meal (Black Angus roasted topside beef served with roast potatoes, fresh seasonal vegetables, peas, gravy and a home baked Yorkshire pudding) for just £7.99.
The fans of Ipswich Town FC are nicknamed Tractor Boys and their fan base is very loyal. During the seasons in the Football League Championship they fill their stadium with an average of 18,000 fans each match. If you are lucky, you'll visit the East-Anglia derby against local rivals Norwich City FC. For such matches, the stadium is packed to the rafters and the 1,900 or so travelling Norwich City fans make a really good atmosphere as well.
It's quite easy to get to the stadium from the motorway. When entering the ringroad around Ipswich (A14) follow the signs 'City Centre' and the ground is well signposted from there. Please note that there are just a few free street parking places in a radius of 10 minutes walk from the stadium. The access from the motorway to the stadium is great, though parking your car close to the ground can be a problem.
We ordered our tickets via the ticket office by e-mail and these were held for collection on the day of the match. The Ipswich ticket office employee was very helpful and understood we came from abroad just for visiting this match. We were appointed seats on the lower tier of the Sir Bobby Moore Stand close to the Norwich City fans. We paid GBP 20,- for our ticket against local rivals Norwich City, which is really a bargain. The stadium was packed and the atmosphere was more than great. In the end Ipswich beat Norwich so the party went on even after the final whistle.
The club doesn't offer any stadium tours, so the only way to visit Portman Road is to buy a ticket for a match. On the perimeter of the ground there are two bronze statues of club legends Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson. An extra point is awarded for Portman Road being located so close to the city centre.
Combine a trip to the historic town of Ipswich and do some shopping in the morning, go to a football match in the afternoon and in the evening find your way in to one of the many restaurants. After dinner there are plenty pubs to choose from for a pleasant evening.
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Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 1EG
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