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Official Review by Oliver Wenner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Wembley Stadium is one of the iconic stadiums in Europe. It’s also called “the cathedral of soccer.” The stadium is the second biggest in Europe after Camp Nou in Barcelona. The capacity is 90,000. Wembley is the home for the soccer matches of the English national football team and is the site of the final of the famous FA Cup. The Final of the second cup of English soccer (League Cup) is also played at Wembley.
Since 2007, the NFL has played at least one game as a part of their International Series at Wembley Stadium. The first official NFL League game in Europe was played on October 28, 2007, when the Miami Dolphins “hosted” the New York Giants. Until 2012, one official League game was held at Wembley. In 2012 the NFL decided to play more games at Wembley. Therefore there were two games in 2013 and three games in 2014. The Atlanta Falcons against Detroit Lions game was the second in 2014, and is the subject of this review.
The original Wembley Stadium opened in 1923 and cost 700,000 pounds to construct. In the year 2000, the stadium was closed. Because of many financial and political problems the stadium was finally destroyed in 2003.
The new Wembley was opened in March 2007. The first sporting event was a benefit soccer game on 17th of March. The first official soccer game was the FA Cup final between FC Chelsea and Manchester United.
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".
The variety of food and beverages are enormous. Outside the stadium you have a lot of food trucks which offer hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers, popcorn and all kinds of beverages. Typical for London, they are very pricey. Inside the stadium there are plenty of concession stands. Every few yards you can get another choice of food. Several kinds of hot dogs (chili, pulled pork, footlong) cost between £5- £9. A hamburger with fries ranges in price from £8- £10. Various pizza choices are in the same price range. Mexican food (burritos and nachos for £7- £9) is also offered.
Beverages are fairly standard. There are three kinds of beer available (Guinness, lager, and ale) for £4- £5. Pepsi produced soft drinks go for £4. Also you can get wine, champagne, or spirits. There are a lot of coffee stands, too, to help keep you warm on a cold day.
From the tube station (subway) you have a great view of Wembley. The first things you will likely see are the three big scoreboards and the huge lighted arc. It's unique for a stadium in Europe.
The stadium has three levels. The small second level is the more expensive club level. The chair backs are upholstered and have cup holders in that level.
The rooftop of the stadium is mobile but it doesn't close completely. The space between the seats are adequate for big and tall persons. There are no standing areas within the stadium. That's typical for stadiums in England.
The concourse is spacious. A lot of restrooms are there, too. Overall, it is a very comfortable stadium.
There are not a lot of pubs and restaurants immediately around Wembley Stadium. You can find chains like T.G.I. Fridays and Hooters within 5-15 minute walks. On game day you have to wait about 30 minutes or more for a place to sit inside. T.G.I. Fridays is on the side of two new hotels.
The NFL has built a huge tailgating area with a lot of merchandising opportunities in front of the stadium between the tube station and stadium that can be enjoyed before and after the game
Great Britain has a huge fan base for American football. They come from all around the country to watch an NFL game at Wembley. A lot of different NFL jerseys are seen throughout the crowd, with almost every team represented. During the game, the fans are not as passionate as may be expected. They know the rules, but don't scream on third down or during the calls from the QB. There are no chants. Not until the game gets really thrilling does the crowd wake up.
Notable for this game is the unique variety of citizenship within the crowd. There were people from all over Europe, with a lot of German, many Scandinavians and a few Russians.
The stadium is located in Wembley, a northwest district of London. It's about 30 minutes by the tube to the city centre. Two metro lines take you to the stadium (Wembley Park) from city centre (Jubilee Line/Metropolitan Line). There is another tube station within walking distance at the southeast side of the stadium called Wembley Central. A nearer railway station on the southeast side called Wembley Stadium is also available.
There are too few parking lots near the stadium. Driving by car to the stadium is ridiculous. If you find a place for parking, you spend a lot of time after the game to get out of the spot and return home. Public transportation is definitely the way to go when seeing a game at Wembley Stadium.
If you have a club level ticket you can enter the stadium one our before the rest of the spectators. There is a small separate entrance where you get to the club level by escalator.
Because of the tradition of Wembley Stadium it's a "must" visit if you are interested in stadiums and arenas. However, the visit is very expensive. You pay £110 for seats at club level but it's worth the cost.
The stadium itself is fantastic. It's the cathedral of soccer. Everybody in Europe knows Wembley Stadium. There is something special in the air at Wembley. The type of construction is brand new and unique. The lighted arc is truly special.
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