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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The SWALEC Stadium, which was previously known as Sophia Gardens, is home to Glamorgan County Cricket Club and has also been an international Test Match venue since 1999. The stadium has an all seated capacity of 15,643 and has been home to Glamorgan since 1967. England have recorded two famous Ashes victories here and the stadium has also hosted matches in the Cricket World Cup. The stadium has one large stand that wraps around about half of the ground with the main pavilion being on the opposite side. The venue has floodlights and offers many corporate facilities.
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".
Part of the day out at a cricket game is the attraction of taking your own picnic and the stadium offers plenty of lawned areas at the back of its stands for spectators to sit and eat during the lunch and tea intervals. However, if you wish to buy your food inside then you will not be disappointed with what is on offer. There are plenty of bars selling beer, cider, and wine in addition to hot and cold soft drinks. The normal range of barbecue food, as well as curries, chips, sandwiches, ice cream, and cakes are also widely available and reasonably priced for an international venue.
As one of the newer Test Match venues, the atmosphere at SWALEC Stadium is a good one. The best atmosphere is for the limited overs one day games, but an Ashes Test Match against Australia is the best game to attend of them all. As normal at a Test Match, the cricket protocols are adhered to until the late afternoon session when the alcohol-related singing starts to kick in by the spectators, which adds to the atmosphere.
SWALEC Stadium, like the Millennium Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium is located right in the city centre.
Situated in Sophia Gardens on the River Taff there is plenty to do before going to the cricket match. Cardiff Castle is nearby and the city offers excellent shopping in addition to its bars and restaurants.
Cardiff's Tiger Bay Area is also a must to visit with its selective shops and bars. Everything in Cardiff is within walking distance, and a visit to Cardiff in August or September of each year would give you the opportunity to visit both the Cardiff City Stadium for soccer and the SWALEC for cricket with a little forward planning.
Glamorgan County Cricket Club has a healthy membership base and the T20 Bash games are well attended. The first four days of The Ashes Test Match were sold out, although it was England playing Australia. However Wales are part of The Test and County Cricket Board so what's in a name? As ever in an Ashes Test, the large band of traveling Australian fans dressed in their amber and green also make the day with their own contribution to the atmosphere.
Access to Cardiff is good, and the city's main railway station with connections to most major cities is only a ten minute walk to the stadium. If travelling by car, then Cardiff City Centre is well signposted off the M4 motorway.
If you arrive early, parking is available for £10 at the stadium. There is plenty of city centre parking, but this can be expensive. Alternatively you can use the Park and Ride facility. Cardiff Airport is located just outside of the city around fifteen minutes away.
Test Match Cricket, particularly when Australia is in town, is not cheap. Tickets range from between £65 and £85 for six hours of cricket. Even at this price, if you get good weather you can't go wrong and even in hot temperatures, the experience is excellent. T20 Bash cricket is a lot cheaper under the floodlights, and a ticket for this is around £20, which is good value.
Match programmes, including scorecards, are available at £6. The lunch time interval provides live music and there are plenty of stores selling cricket souvenirs around the ground. Sponsors have their own stalls and Yorkshire Tea were giving away free boxes of the traditional English drink as you entered the stadium. Cardboard fours and sixes are also given out to spectators for you to hold in the air when a boundary is scored.
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