- Adam Pate
Nika Stadium – FC Oleksandriya
Photos by Adam Pate, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
Nika Stadium Shevchenka St. 58 28000 Oleksandriya, Ukraine
FC Oleksandriya website Nika Stadium website
Year Opened: 1998 Capacity: 7,000
Match Day Oleksandriya
The small town of Oleksandriya, located just over 300km south of Kyiv, is enjoying the most prosperous time in its sporting history. Over the last four years, the local club has qualified for European competition on three occasions, reaching the Europa League Group Stages for the first time this 2019-2020 season. The two local football groups merged five years ago, and the new club has spent the last few years in the Premier League of Ukraine. The club still acknowledges the merger by using the swallowed club (FC UkrAhroKom Holovkivka) as its main sponsor – understandable, as it is a large agricultural firm.
The Nika Stadium, opened in 1998, is a small compact stadium, with capacity for 7000 spectators on match day. The stadium is located a short walk from downtown. However, most facilities in Oleksandriya are only a short walk, given a population of fewer than 100,000 people. The stadium is located on the Inhulets River banks, which splits the city into two halves. The stadium is set within a larger sports complex that holds administrative buildings, training centers, and conference halls for businesses in the agricultural heartland of Ukraine.
The stadium complex is open a reasonable time before match day, allowing supporters to mingle outside in good weather. Although, the setting allows for plenty of local public buses to bring supporters to and from the game. The train station is quite a distance from the ground in the eastern half of the city. Regular trains make the stadium a possible day trip from Kyiv for any potential weekend visitors to the capital.
Food & Beverage 2
Being set inside a larger complex, we had hoped to find a good supply of food on offer but were let down. The conference facilities are available for rent on match days, so the restaurant we had been looking forward to visiting was closed. It may be different for other games but worth checking in advance. Several convenience stores are nearby, and the center of the town, just 15 minutes walk away, hosts some good quality restaurants.
The club has a hot food outlet outside the ground in the car park, where fans assemble before the game. Beer is available from 20Uah (O.70USD) and is palatable. I chatted with a few supporters as I wanted to learn more about the European experiences, and they all seemed to be munching on dried fish. The dried fish does go well with the beer I should add.
Inside the ground, there is a small coffee shop in the stands. Lesson learned, go early for hot food at Oleksandriya as everything seems to sell out prior to halftime. After the game, head to two restaurants in the main town square, which serve a tasty variety of food and drink. Scorini’s serves delicious pizza for less than 5USD$, while Vostoka has a good selection of drinks for under 2USD$ and beer snacks to go along with it.
As with many top-level grounds in Ukraine, no alcohol is available for purchase inside the ground. Oleksandriya does offer alcohol-free beer for those of you who need a kick. There is the usual selection of sodas and hot drinks for less than a dollar in the coffee shops – they are still there at halftime.
Fans gather for the real beer experience in the car park area before kick-off. Many people enjoy some vodka there as well. It is available from all nearby convenience stores for just a few dollars. The craft beer culture does not appear to have arrived in the rural Kirovograd Region, so for now, depend on the fizzy variety.
Small but quaint, the Nika Stadium offers a picturesque and unique experience for the Ukrainian groundhopper. The intelligent design offers viewpoints from all parts of the ground and easy access for visitors.
The ground has a selection of stands that are ten rows deep and are scattered around the pitch. There appears to be no preferred seating areas, and fans are distributed freely around the stadium, ensuring that noise comes from all angles. The only part of the ground that is off-access for supporters is the far corner with a selection of pine trees that creates a unique experience (at least on my travels). I can only imagine how it would look in winter, covered in snow. Entertainment is kept to minimal, allowing supporters to mingle and chat during the halftime break. Most supporters head to the coffee shop, given the queue. The scoreboard towers over the ground, proudly displaying the score for all bar the visiting fans. Sadly, on the day of my visit, the club shared the defeat. It also shared little else bar the score, something to consider in the future.
Nika Stadium Scoreboard, Photo by Adam Pate, Stadium Journey
As with all Ukraine games, the teams enter to the league anthem and sing the national anthem with gusto before kick-off. Before the revolution in 2014, this was less prominent, but it now allows Ukrainians to share their pride. The announcement system is less archaic if truth be told, but it is clear enough to hear messages. Given the lack of money in Ukrainian football, it is perhaps understandable that investment is restricted.
For most visitors, the best option for a one-time visit to the ground would be the main stand opposite the conference center. Any of the back few rows allow for views over the coffee shop, but the other stands fail to access it. Nevertheless, the main stand provides quicker access to the sports complex if that takes your pleasure. Overall, either side of the pitch is excellent, but the food is only available on one side.
Located on the edge of downtown in small Oleksandriya, the club offers quick access to the center after the game for fans to move on to their home regions. The river Ingulets offers a majestic stroll before the game if you arrive early.
Oleksandriya is a tiny place, and sadly this results in little being on offer away from the ground. The fast intercity train makes it possible as a day trip from Kyiv, but Dnipro just two hours away makes for a better option. There are several professional teams within two hours’ drive of the city, which are possible given the staggered kick-off times in the Ukraine leagues. Just be warned, the road to Petrove is in a bad state if you fancy catching Ingulets while at Oleksandriya.
After the game, head to two restaurants in the main town square, which serve a tasty variety of food and drink. Scorini’s serves delicious pizza for less than 5USD$, while Vostoka has a good selection of drinks for under 2USD$ and beer snacks to go along with it.
With Oleksandriya qualifying for the Europa League, the lack of accommodations in the city is brought into sharp focus. The Biker’s Pub Hotel is around 15 minutes’ walk from the ground. The hotel is fantastic even if small, with large rooms and a bar for customers on-site. The owner is amiable and welcome visitors like a family guest. However, accommodation is something that the city will need to address as the club continues to grow.
With home fans scattered around three sides of the ground, the supporters create a good atmosphere when willing. Unlike more common scenes in Ukraine, the noise comes from all sections of the ground, even though the Ultras congregate behind the goal.
With a stadium capacity of only 7,000 spectators, it may surprise you that there could be such an atmosphere with only 25% of the ground full. However, the stand designs ensure that noise travels across the pitch. Do not despair; on big match days against Dynamo or Shakhtar, the ground can reach half capacity. They sit 11th of 12 teams in the attendance ranking, with a 20% drop from last year’s attendance – surprising given the European football on offer this year.
As with most Ukraine grounds, the Ultras are set apart from other supporters and create a unique atmosphere with flags and flares visible during the match. However, Oleksandriya’s engagement is not restricted to this section, and the fans join in the chants throughout the game. At the match of this review, it may have helped that the club was struggling, and the fans were encouraging them to play harder. Nevertheless, it is great to hear the noise coming from all corners.
Being set in this remote Ukraine region, the trip is not the most viable for people wanting to take in one game only. It is worth a stop if visiting locations further south on the main Kyiv – Zaporizhya railway.
The intercity train travels between Kyiv and Zaporizhya a couple of times a day, with Oleksandriya being the first main stop after leaving the capital. There are also some slower trains, which take about five hours to cover the 300km. There are ample local taxis at the train station to take fans to the stadium area of the city and are very cheap as well. Sadly, the nearest airport is in Dnipro, another 200km down the road, meaning taking the train again to Oleksandriya. While in the town, local buses do provide an alternate, but they are not required given taxi prices. One thing to note, ride-sharing companies such as Uber are not working in Oleksandriya presently.
The stadium complex does provide parking (20uah) for the taxi drivers to drop you off if need be. Most home supporters commute to the game via public transport or walk given the proximity to downtown. There is also space on the road for free-parking if you do bring a car with you.
For visitors with mobility needs, Oleksandriya provides excellent access through the main stadium gates from the front of the ground. Within the stadium, various gates can be opened to allow you access to all complex areas. Otherwise, entrance to the favored side with the coffee shop requires a descent down a number of stairs, proving difficult after a beer or icy conditions.
There is no hiding the stadium’s size – it is small, with all facilities out in the open. Fans have to squeeze into the coffee shop at half time, and queues at busier times are out into the stands. There is space at the front of the stands for wheelchairs but limited. Nevertheless, once inside the ground, it is not too complicated to move around the stadium for different viewpoints.
Return on Investment 5
As a club, Oleksandriya understands where it is presently and charges affordable prices for visitors. For less than 5USD, you can have a great afternoon’s entertainment.
A ticket to enter the ground will set you back less than two dollars, which is quite reasonable around Ukraine. Programmes are available for 0.80USD and provide a good grounding in the match proceedings, even for those without the language. The food options are available if you desire, and beer is optional before the game as well.
Given how cheap it is, there is little additional desire to save money, but you can skip transport, as everything is walkable in the town. There are local shops nearby, which provide cheap snacks before the game for hungry visitors.
Drinking beers before the game with the supporters is a must!
Oleksandriya provides an affordable and enjoyable match day experience for those brave enough to visit. The town’s location makes it an excellent stop off south but not advisable to make it the center point of a visit to Ukraine.