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Official Review by Ray Geering, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
The PostFinance Arena, formerly known as the "Allmendstadion", is a well-known arena in Europe. Locals often talk of "Top of Europe" because the local team SC Bern leads the annual average attendance with over 16,000 spectators per game. The big and steep grandstand is probably the most impressive fan scenery across European hockey.
The arena itself opened in 1966 and was roofed 1969. There have been various changes over the years like new VIP lounges, new seats in 1990 for the IIHF World Championship as well as a new videotron in 2005. The major reconstruction took place in 2008 when the SC Bern bought the arena from the city. This reconstruction brought more comfort to the arena (also including a new VIP section) and also increased the amount of seats something which was really needed. The season tickets are sold out for years.
The look and feel of the arena slightly changed with the reconstruction. Especially those two new holes in the grandstand made the grandstand slightly less impressive. That doesn't mean it's no longer impressive tough. If you're interested to know how it looked before the reconstruction, then simply have a look at the pictures at hockeyarenas.net.
The local team SC Bern was founded 1931. They played in the "Ka-We-De" in Bern from 1933 until they moved to the new facility in 1966. The team had ups and downs and they almost went bankrupt in 1997. The team was saved in 1999 thanks to the Valora Group. The team took its lesson and they actually have good financing today. In 2012, the turnover was around CHF 50 million.
Their last title was back in 2010. With 12 titles, the SC Bern ranks 2nd all-time in Switzerland championships. Only HC Davos is far ahead with 30 titles.
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".
We have to look at the food & beverage differently at PostFinance Arena because it depends on whether you have a ticket for a seat or for the grandstand. The grandstand has their food court under the grandstand. It's accessed through one of the three big entrances in the grandstand. But that's basically the problem because it takes quite some time to get there if the arena is almost sold out. The food court itself offers a lot of space and it has enough possibilities to satisfy.
The situation in the seating area is a lot better because they're easy to access. The two "upper seat arena" have their own board and there's another one in each corner which is accessible from the upper and lower seats. Then you have a fifth concession for the seats on the main side. Furthermore there's a restaurant on the other side (the restaurant itself is open when no games are played). And last but not least there's the famous "Oldies Bar" which opens until around 3 AM after a game.
Not all of the food locations offer the same food. You can get a sandwich, hot dog, a sausage called "Bärezipfel" and Pizza (Margherita or Prosciutto) as well as some candies. My favourite has always been the Pizza Prosciutto.
The beverages are sold in special cups which have a deposit of CHF 2 so make sure you bring back your cup to get your deposit back. The pricing seems reasonable compared to most other Swiss arenas. A Coke for example is CHF 4 (without the deposit).
The VIP section, located on the 1st floor, has its own restaurant. You can order your drink and food in advance to get it right after the period (you have your own table reserved). But you don't have a chance to get there unless you're invited by some of the sponsors.
If you're lucky enough to get to the lounges (located on the 2nd floor) then you'll get a complete meal before the game and you can order beverages during the game. Each lounge has its own waitress.
The quality of the food is good in my opinion. The SC Bern has its own food company called "SCB Gastro AG". One third of the annual income comes from the food and beverage.
It's not allowed to bring in your own food or beverage. If you have a bag then you can be sure that the security will sift through it.
I personally think the atmosphere is linked to the fans and that's why the atmosphere in the arena is great (see the section "fans"). So let's say I added an extra point to the atmosphere due to the fans. But if you think atmosphere is related to comfort, then deduct one point. The comfort for sure isn't that great and you'll notice that they had to make some compromises when they reconstructed the facility. You'll especially notice this if you're used to new, modern facilities. However, the arena has its own old charm.
Since the reconstruction, the entrance for the standings is on the rear side of the arena while the entrance for seats and VIP is on the front side. This was a major improvement. However, if you have a ticket for standing, it may be a good idea to get in early enough. There may be quite a queue and furthermore you may only get a bad place somewhere in the corner. I would probably try to get as close to one of the entrances to have easier access to the food court.
If you have a seating ticket, then you don't have to hurry. The seats are "Swiss standard" which means plastic seats. They're for sure not special. The gap between your seat and the front row is fairly small and that's why they have tip-ups seats. This means if somebody has to go to his seat, the other people may have to stand up. The reason for those small gaps is a heritage of the original arena where they only had wood benches without a back rest. Anyway, while the game is running, you're only allowed to get to your seat during an intermission.
Also don't expect things like cup holders. You simply place your cup on the floor between your feet or you keep it in your hands.
If you have a seat behind the goals, then you'll notice a huge net, which I personally think is not needed. It makes sure pucks don't go outside the rink. But you get used to it and it doesn't disturb your view a lot. The scoreboard is visible from all sides. Only the upper VIP seats have a slightly reduced sight to it. The screen which shows replays of the goals is a bit small and really could be bigger. Anyway, there are also screens around the whole arena which broadcast the game. So you can also watch it, e.g., while you're getting some food.
The are some seats which are not quite perfect, especially the 1st and 2nd row on the main straight near the corners. You'll have restricted view to one corner due to the speaker cabinet. On the other hand, you're really close to the game and you hear players talk, and checks seem harder. So this may neutralize the disadvantage of the limited view. Personally I often sat there and I felt closer to the game than on a seat on the upper rink. So every seat probably has its advantages and disadvantages.
The nice thing about the seats behind the nets or on the straight behind the benches is that you have a view onto the grandstand.
During the periods, they show some cars of their sponsor and they make some games. They may change from year to year though.
The cheerleaders of the team are also located on the grandstand, right at the middle entrance, but most visitors don't care about them. The cheerleaders are also on the ice before and after the game.
The PA in the arena can be rated as very good. No matter where you sit or stand, you'll hear it clearly.
Games are sold out for the whole season except in the guest corner. The view from there can be called good but it wouldn't be my favorite place. However, if the game is not sold out, you can check out if there's a free seat somewhere else.
It's probably best to stay in the facility after the game (restaurant or Oldies Bar). There may be a couple of restaurants within a five minute walk, but the facility itself is probably the better choice. You can get to the city of Bern/main station with the public transportation after the game though.
Speaking of the safety in walking to the game, they have made big improvements. The visiting fan groups often arrive in cars and the security/police makes sure that they get to their section separated.
The atmosphere in the arena is great and the grandstand is impressive. The fans cheer their team and it's great to watch it. And with an average of over 16,000 spectators each game, the arena is filled pretty close to capacity.
Before the game, they dim the lights and a video is shown on the cube. After that the moderator starts to heat up the atmosphere. He'll call the number and first name of each player while the whole crowd is yelling the surname. The player then gets on the ice, skating through a bear cage which is extended by the cheerleaders who are standing there.
In the last couple of minutes of a game (and if the home team is winning), the crowd often sings "stand up if you're a Bern-guy" which creates a great atmosphere. During the playoffs or important games, it may happen that the crowd starts the wave. During a bad game, it may be that you have a slightly worse atmosphere. The atmosphere really rises and falls with the performance on the ice.
During derbies, the atmosphere may be heated up and some of the fan songs may contain inappropriate language. However, most of the time it's no problem. But there are some games where it may be more critical. The guest fans have their own section so riots within the arena are almost impossible. Besides that, there's a security group in the arena and they also use video surveillance.
After the game, they always vote for the best player for each team. The fans of course celebrate their player. Depending on the game and the visiting team, the other player may be booed but he also might get a small applause.
I have mixed feelings about the access. It really depends if you get there with your car or by public transportation. The rating would be a 2 if you take your car. The facility has a car park which has two stages (which is filled pretty quickly). But it only has one entrance and exit. So especially leaving the car park will take a while. I recommend that you take your time and simply drink something in the restaurant before leaving the arena. This way you make sure that most of the traffic has gone. If you leave right after the game, then you'll for sure end up in a traffic jam.
There's also a parking lot next to the arena. The charge for the parking lot and the car park is CHF 5 during a game. But also, the parking lot only has one entrance and exit. Many people decide to park further away from the arena somewhere in the neighborhood. But you have to know where because there are many parking places where you can't park longer than an hour (and the security really checks often during the games). Therefore many people get a fee of CHF 40 during a game.
On the positive side, the arena is close to the autobahn exit. But again, it may have a lot of traffic. Either you go there early enough or you take another road if you're a local.
If you take public transportation, then you can either travel to Bern main station by train and take the tram or bus, or you travel to Bern Wankdorf (train station). It's probably a 10 minute walk from there though while the tram stops right at the facility.
After a game, the public transportation is free with your game ticket. Trams are stopping often after games and bring you back to Bern main station.
The access within the arena is average (it's worse on the grandstand). In the seating section, restrooms are easy to access and they are mainly clean. It may become worse during a game, but they're for sure clean before the game. There are two restroom sections (behind the nets). They're not that big though which means you often have to wait during the periods. The waiting time is acceptable but I'd prefer to go there before the game and not during the periods.
There are also places for handicapped people. If you're in a wheelchair, one escort can get in for free. But you have to reserve these tickets in advance (mail or phone to the office) and it's not offered during sold out games.
The check at the security gate may be a bit more severe for the grandstand. And as mentioned, bags are sifted through.
Well, if you want to watch a hockey game in Switzerland, then the PostFinance Arena for sure is a recommendation, simply due to the huge, impressive grandstand. The SC Bern leads the IIHF average attendance of Europe for years and that's why locals call it "Top of Europe". But if you want to watch a game, then I recommend that you visit a "top game". Games versus Fribourg or Davos for example often are more spectacular and have a more heated up atmosphere than games versus other teams. But also make sure you get a ticket in advance because those games may be sold out.
The pricing of the tickets (during qualification) are Swiss standard. Well, in fact they're maybe even below the average in Switzerland. There are different prices during qualification and playoffs. Especially a playoff final can be quite expensive if you're even able to get a ticket. They're sold out very quickly and you for sure have to get them in advance (e.g., ticketcorner.ch). During qualification the prices are CHF 20 for standing (CHF 10 for children under 16) and CHF 40 for seats (only guest sector). There are also special family tickets. It's best to visit the SC Bern website to check the current prices.
During the playoff semi-final, you can probably double the prices.
VIP is sold out for the whole season.
As usual in hockey, retired numbers hang under the roof. This is also the case in the PostFinance Arena. This means 0, 6, 7, 12, 15, 18, 22 and 31 are currently locked. The 31 belonged to the SC Bern goalie Renato Tosio. He kept the goal between 1985 and 2001 and didn't miss any games during those 14 seasons (713 NLA games in a row). SC Bern became Swiss champion 4 times with Renato Tosio (1989, 1991, 1992 and 1997).
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