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Official Review by Stephan Hoogerwaard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
FC Schalke 04's home of 30 years was Parkstadion. However, as the stadium was showing its age, plans to built a new stadium in Gelsenkirchen started in 1996, and the board of directors searched for a move out of the outdated Parkstadion. The old Parkstadion had a capacity of 62,000 with mainly uncovered seating and standing areas. The stadium had also a running track around the pitch.
Following FC Schalke 04's historic 1997 victory over Internazionale Milan in the UEFA Cup Final, and the club's upcoming 100th anniversary in 2004, the realisation of a modern multifunctional stadium came to the forefront. The contract to construct a €186 million multi-functional arena was given in 1998 to the German construction firm HBM. The site chosen for FC Schalke 04's new stadium was just 300 metres away from the old Parkstadion.
The Veltins-Arena (originally named Arena aufSchalke) was created as a multi-functional arena of two tiers that completely surround the playing field. These allow for a league capacity of 61,673 spectators (standing and seated). For league matches, the North stand is left as standing rows (capacity: 16,300) to accommodate the most fanatic Schalke 04 fans, while for international matches, these are converted to seats (capacity: 8,600). The 72 VIP lounges form a ring around the entire stadium, separating the first tier from the second tier. On the West stand, the VIP capacity is increased by a second level of lounges. The stadium opened her doors in 2001.
The Veltins-Arena has a fiberglass canvas retractable roof which spans the entire stadium. The roof is supported by 24 steel pylons. The center of the roof can be opened into two halves, allowing for an opened or covered stadium, depending on weather and events. Hanging 25 meters over the center of the pitch are four big video screens, each 35 square metres in size. This scoreboard (similar to those found inside US indoor sports arenas) was the first of its kind in a European football stadium.
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 many food and drink counters on ground level and on the walkway of the second tier. There is a lot of variety of sodas, beer, and coffee. The price for 1/2 liter of cola is €3.60, and the same amount of mineral water will cost you €3.00. The price for 1/2 liter Veltins beer is also €3.60, but for all beverages you have to pay a €1.00 deposit for the plastic cup it's in.
There is also a large variety of typical German food to choose from. You can buy a bratwurst or bockwurst for €2.50, and all are served with a small piece of bread. A hot dog costs €2.70, and you can be the owner of a krakauer or a schnitzel for the price of €3.70. Keep in mind that you can't pay with cash in the stadium, and you'll have to buy a special kind of credit card (Knappenkarte) inside the ground.
To experience the atmosphere in German stadia is quite unique. Most of the German teams have large supporter groups. On this occasion, there were 5.000 fans from Eintracht Frankfurt traveling to Gelsenkirchen.
During this match, there was a large display of pyrotechnics in the Nordkurve (the lower tier of the North Stand). This was the first time that such a large fireworks display was seen in this stadium.
The Veltins-Arena is situated in the geographical middle of Gelsenkirchen at the 'Berger Feld' in the suburb of Erle, and close to the neighboring suburbs of Buer and Beckhausen. These are rather quiet neighborhoods with luxury houses in mainly green streets. If you park your car in one of these areas, it's a 15 minute walk to the stadium.
FC Schalke 04's most fanatic supporters are housed in the NordKurve. More than 16,000 fans are packed in this standing area of the ground. They support their team all 90 minutes and are fired on by a "kapo" with a megaphone.
The biggest rivals of FC Schalke 04 are Borussia Dortmund, mainly because the city of Dortmund is just 20 km away. The football (soccer) matches between these two German giants are known as "Revierderby", named after the river Ruhr which runs through both cities.
You can reach the arena by several methods. When you are travelling from Gelsenkirchens' main train station, you can take the Straßenbahnlinie 302 (tram) to the stadium. When you are travelling by car, there are two exits on the highway that lead to the paid parking areas close to the stadium: on the A2, exit 6 (Gelsenkirchen-Buer) and on the A42, exit 17 (Gelsenkirchen-Schalke).
It's difficult to buy your tickets for a home match of FC Schalke 04, as all their Bundesliga matches are sold out. At the start of the season, it's possible to buy via the club site for the lesser-interesting fixtures tickets. Before you try to make an attempt to get hold of a couple of tickets, create an account first. A password to activate your account will be sent to you by the club within a couple of days.
For a regular home match of FC Schalke 04, you can buy tickets in the seating area from €26 till €51 (prices for the 2012/2013 season). It is impossible to buy tickets in the standing area, as they are all sold to season-ticket holders before the start of the season. For the neutral spectator, visiting a Schalke 04 match is a great day out. Enjoy the great atmosphere from the stands, and let the stadium impress you!
The 5,000 meter Beer Pipeline: What would football be without beer? For many, only half as nice. It comes well-chilled in the Veltins-Arena, not out of the box or barrel, but from a 5,000-meter-long beer pipeline. This beer pipeline is unique in Europe and was designed specifically for the Veltins-Arena. It provides the counters, the Business Club, and all dining areas with fresh Veltins beer. The beer comes directly from the four cooling centers in the arena catacombs where up to 52,000 liters of beer can be stashed. Controlled by the central management system, the beer travels via docking to the dispensers, and finally into the plastic cups of the thirsty guests.
The Bundesliga is the best league in Europe to watch a football match. For the last 5 years, the Bundesliga has the highest average gate in Europe (over 44,000 spectators each match). Most of the stadiums are always full and the atmosphere is great (not spontaneously, but well directed). Please skip the city centre of Gelsenkirchen, as there are no places of interest. Just go to Gelsenkirchen to visit a football match; you will be moved by the great atmosphere inside the ground.
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