Coventry City FC was founded in 1883 and boasts a rich football heritage. From 1899, its home was Highfield Road until the decision was taken to upgrade to a new stadium on the outskirts of the city. Ricoh Arena is its replacement, built at a cost of £113m with a hotel, exhibition hall and casino attached.
So far, the stadium has earned a bigger reputation for the quality of musical acts that have played there than the quality of football you can see. Bryan Adams and The Red Hot Chili Peppers have played there in recent years. Nevertheless, the Ricoh recently earned the honour of hosting a number of matches for the football tournament at the 2012 Olympic Games, cementing its place as one of England's pre-eminent grounds.
What is FANFARE?
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
- Food & Beverage
- Return on Investment
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food & Beverage
Not a lot to see here. Wimpy restaurants (a less famous McDonalds) line the interior so the typical range of fast food is available to you. A meat pie will set you back £2.70. A decent range of alcohol and soft drinks are available too, although you won't be able to take them into the game with you.
Bear in mind that the Ricoh Arena is unique in that it operates a cashless system for the majority of outlets. Only one third of the kiosks accept cash. To use the cashless system, get yourself a smartcard and top this up with however much you want to spend. There are usually vendors floating around who will sort this out for you. Unless you are a regular visitor, it's perhaps better just to use the cash kiosks in case you leave unspent money on your card.
As you would expect from a stadium that has earned a reputation as one of Britain's top music venues, the acoustics are excellent. Unfortunately, the opportunities to show this off were seldom.
Coventry has slipped into something of a malaise in the last decade, having slipped from the lucrative Premier League in the 2000-01 season. There has been the odd green shoot but they have rarely convinced viewers that a return to the highest tier is approaching. During this game, with Coventry losing to the league leaders, that malaise was palpable. It doesn't help that the club often doesn't come close to filling its capacity for games. Attendances have been as low as 16,000 in the 2011 season.
In the vicinity of the ground, things aren't exactly picturesque, situated as it is in a heavily built area. However, the retail park adjoining the ground offers a great number of options if you want to avoid eating at the ground.
In the city itself, perhaps the two biggest attractions for tourists are the old cathedral and the transport museum. The ruins of the cathedral are a standing memoriam of the bombardment the city received during World War II and is free to view. Also free is the Transport Museum which allows you to explore the evolution of car-making and view some of the machines that achieved the Land Speed world record.
Not encouraged by continuing bad results, the fans were understandably tepid, with the away fans often making themselves heard above them.
All in all, it is just a typically average football crowd. Perhaps look at seeing a local derby involving Coventry if you want to see things at full pelt.
The Ricoh Arena is truly excellent in this department. While the local train station is too far away from the ground to make it a viable travel option, you can board a shuttle bus which takes you from the city's main train station (Pool Meadow) to the arena complex. Buy a "match day ticket" for £3.50 and this will allow you to travel anywhere for the duration of the day. Remember to have the exact fare ready when paying as the driver will not give you change on Coventry buses. The Travel West Midlands website provides all the information you would ever need for travelling around the city.
The stadium shares a complex with a retail park. You can park at the retail park for a maximum of two hours unless you spend over £25 at one of the shops. If this won't apply to you, there is the opportunity to book parking at the ground itself in advance for between £7 and £10.
The approach to the ground should offer minimal fuss as it right next to the M6 motorway which is the hub of the British road network. Once at the ground, entry is fairly comfortable. One caveat would be that the queues were at times horrendous for various vendors. You would have thought that the cashless system would make things quicker, but the opposite seems to be the case.
Return on Investment
Prices are not out of synch with other Championship clubs. For adults, prices range from £16-£27.50 so there is the opportunity to see good football at a reasonable price. Furthermore, Under 7s can enter for free in certain parts of the ground.
The Ricoh Arena also has the added attraction of being a newly built, modern, organised stadium so as a venue to go and experience English football's second-tier, it is unparalleled.
Worth checking out is the Sky Blues wall of fame which encircles the ground. It consists of the legends that form the core of Coventry City's history. Stadium tours are available on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at a cost of £5 for the "basic tour". In the ground, a big screen replays match incidents and provides team information. All in all, like its Midlands counterpart Leicester City, Coventry City have a ground worthy of comparison to some of the country's best. Now it just requires the quality of football such an arena deserves.