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Official Review by Peter Bell, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
Dean Court has been AFC Bournemouth’s home since 1910. The current stadium was constructed in 2001 and it has already had many sponsors named over the years: The Fitness First Stadium, The Seawards Stadium, The Goldsands Stadium and more recently the Vitality Stadium. It is the smallest ground in the English Premier League with a capacity of just 11,700. The main stand (west stand) houses the hospitality suites and has sections of family seating areas on both flanks.
The bulk of the home supporters are located in the Steve Fletcher stand, which is at the north end of the ground and holds some 3,000 supporters. The east stand is mainly for home fans, but it also houses up to 1,600 visiting fans. It’s a tight space for the away fans and is always heavily stewarded.
Finally, the Ted MacDougall Stand is a temporary structure that was erected when the team were promoted to the Championship in 2013 and holds 2,200 fans. This stand is usually only for home supporters, but there have been a few FA Cup and League Cup games when visiting fans of large clubs have been seated there.
It is not that often that you’ll find champagne bars at a football ground, but the Bubbles Bar in the main stand is exactly that, and is used for corporate functions. Most fans are more likely to end up having a drink in the 1910 Club which is also situated at one end of the main stand building on the first floor.
At the opposite left end of the main stand you’ll also find the Club Shop which is a one-story facility that includes some novel features like a working electronic manikin of Steve Fletcher, complete with goal posts. You’ll also get a good feel for the club and its history by making your way round behind the north stand to the east stand, where the Wall of Fame charts the story of iconic AFC Bournemouth players and teams over the club’s existence. The stadium is also well equipped for disabled supporters and has a dedicated junior fanzone for fun before games.
The stadium has seen many upgrades in 2015 with the club’s promotion to the Premier League. There is now a Pavilion building that houses the media centre and press conference facility and new floodlighting and underground heating has been added to the ground, as well as 100 press seats.
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 large burgers and hot dogs available to purchase for £4. The pies are made on the premises and the chicken and mushroom is my favourite. You can buy soft drinks for £2 and beers are also on sale in the concourses under the stands. There are Junior Cherry lunch boxes that are also well priced and chocolate, crisps, etc. are available.
Bournemouth fans have a reasonable selection of chants. They get behind the manager most of all though and love singing his name to Barmy Army. Even though the corners of the ground are not filled in, fans feel very close to the players and the sound remains inside the ground so you can make your voice heard. It is a much improved atmosphere since the temporary Ted MacDougall stand has been built. On windy days you will feel the breeze blowing through the corners of the ground though, so dress appropriately.
Situated in Kings Park, there are avenues of trees and clear pathways to the ground. Next to the stadium are the training pitches and tarmac car park, which is only a couple of quid on match days. Getting out of the car park can take some time though.
The local sub-centre of Boscombe is only a 10 minute walk away and it is well supplied with shops, pubs and cafes for visiting fans. It is not as attractive as the town centre or the beach, but it's still a busy area.
The home fans always do a 'make some noise for the boys' appeal going round each of the stands moments before the teams come out. The north stand makes the most noise and singing is fairly good throughout the match, but the fans sing much louder when they are at away grounds. There is perhaps rather a lot of clapping from the main stand, but some songs will get them going.
The ground is situated just off the Wessex Way, which is a dual carriage way. Visiting fans will find it easy to locate and there is a car park right by the ground for £1 and extra parking facilities at the Sovereign shopping centre in Boscombe and at Harewood College. The train station is a bus ride away if you go to the main Bournemouth station. After the games the roads are busy and it does take 20 minutes to drive out of the area.
Ticket prices are by no means the most expensive in the Premier League. Family stand adult price is £29 and adult prices in the north and south stand are £32 and from £33 in the east stand rising up to £45 in the main stand. Executive prices are £45. There are concessions and low Junior Cherry and disabled prices. For the style of play that we have seen Eddie Howe's teams play over the last seven years it has been worth every penny.
When you go to a match at Dean Court you can also buy one of the best match programmes in the country. It really is packed with information and has won many awards over the years. It is also good to get there early as you can really get close to the players who will sign autographs. The chance to see top flight football in this small and intimate venue is also a real treat, and worth an additional point.
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