Photos by Chris Tuck, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Diaz Arena Leopold Van Tyghemlaan 62 8400 Oostende, Belgium
Year Opened: 1934 (renovated 2017)
Diaz Arena of KV Oostende – Let’s Get It On
Note: The stadium name changed from Versluys Arena to Diaz Arena
With their previous home Albertparkstadion said to be holding the club back, comprehensive renovations gave KV Oostende a brand-new facility for the start of the 16/17 season. The costs of developing on the same site were said to be in the region of 18M Euros and brought the capacity up to 8,432.
New bars, hospitality suites and conference rooms at the new stadium brought an increased stature for this welcoming club that paid immediate dividends. A first ever (unsuccessful) Croky Cup final appearance in March 2017 was followed by Europa league participation in the 17/18 season, thus fulfilling the dream of the then owner Marc Coucke.
The coastal city of Oostene (Ostende) in West Flanders has gone from fishing village through strategic war time location to its current form, a city skyline dominated by cranes and developments, a city moving with the times. It’s got that contented vibe often associated with a holiday destination. The promenade is huge, the sandy beach vast and the street art and lively bars attract plenty of summertime visitors.
KV Oostende, nicknamed the Kustboys, were founded back in 1904. Since then their trophy count has been modest but in early 2020 they find themselves in the Belgium top flight, albeit in a relegation dogfight.
Food & Beverage 3
The new ‘main stand’ contains the VIP sections together with sections A and B. The vociferous home fans are based behind the goal in section C. Opposite the main stand is D stand, with the North Sea end (also containing away fans) known as E stand.
In the corner of the main stand and the C stand there is an excellent KVO-themed supporters bar, Club 31, selling local dikke mathile, Filou and Maes beers. The main stand concourse has soft drinks at 2.40 Euros, Maes at 2.80 Euros and the stronger Filou at 3.60 Euros.
For food, head to either corner of the C stand where burger vans and kiosks provide chips & mayonnaise, burgers, etc. There is an outdoor ‘fan zone’ and another supporters bar behind the D stand with a lively atmosphere and the usual fayre on sale. The longest queue is in the main stand and it is for the chocolate waffles!
Don’t forget as ever in Europe, to make any purchases you’ll first need to buy a 1 Euro ‘Consumptie Kaart’, load it with cash and use it for all refreshment purchases.
In the immediate vicinity of the ground, if it’s not the middle of winter, walking just a few steps over to the beach / promenade will yield some upmarket restaurants / bars with great sea views.
Despite the renovation, the Versluys Arena still has a nice eclectic mix of stands. The main stand with its curved roof is the largest with approx. 3800 seats, all with excellent views of the action. If you are fortunate enough to buy a seat in the VIP section, the seats are padded, perfect for a cold January night match with a biting North Sea breeze.
The two stands behind the goals bring the noise and colour to matches. Home fans in the C stand with their banners and chants and away fans in the corner of both the D and E stands are almost always vociferous too.
The D stand has three separate structures including the centerpiece, a small but smart stand and two smaller, older stands on either side. Fans of symmetrical stadia will be disappointed that the side stands are slightly different in size!
The scoreboard in the corner of the C and D stands can be seen from most areas of the ground, the pitch itself was enlarged during the renovation to meet UEFA standards.
The Versluys stadium is located 2 miles south of the city centre. Whilst the area around the stadium has some accommodation and refreshments options, we’d recommend staying in the centre where there is much to see and do. The Hotel Royal Astrid is recommended, with a tram stop (Koninginnelaan) right outside you can get to the stadium and the town centre in about 7 minutes either way. Opposite the hotel, you can also see the Leopold statue and be on the beach and promenade in 2 minutes. The hotel does not have parking but there’s a car park adjacent with a cost of 24 Euros for 24 hours.
Options for bars and restaurants are numerous. All along the promenade you can grab a drink and some food and watch the world walk, pedal and scoot past. The Langestraat area has the busiest bars at night and the main shopping area has some good eating options too. The Manuscript and the Green Man Whiskey bars are recommended. Visit the Oostende Beer Tourism website for some excellent further suggestions.
Seafood is obviously a good option here when hunger hits, so head to Bistrot de la Mer if that’s your thing. Our recommendation is a homely bar/restaurant in the main shopping area called the Tudor Rose.
It is quirky to realise our journey from Southampton to Oostende was following in the footsteps of a certain Mr Marvin Gaye. The US soul singer took the ferry on the very same route for a period of reflection and reinvigoration after his heavy lifestyle had took its toll. There are no passenger ferries any more, but it’s said he enjoyed his time here and there’s not many better name-dropping recommendation than that!
Attraction wise the Atlantic Wall WW2 bunkers and armory installations are recommended and the street art is to die for! After a recent festival there are some fantastic pieces to see. For a map and more info visit Street art in Ostend.
There will be some fans around from the time when two Oostende clubs, VG and AS, merged in 1981, the current stadium was then the home of AS Oostende.
Now in their 7th consecutive top-flight season, average attendances reached as high as 7,344 in the 16/17 season when they recorded their highest ever league position of 4th. Attendances have fallen recently with 5077 the average so far in 19/20 season, the 12th highest out of 16 pro league clubs.
Despite losing on the night, the home fans in the C stand kept the noise going throughout the game. In the posh seats of the main stand the support was a little less raucous but that’s to be expected.
If you are flying in, Oostende-Brugge Airport is the closest, although international coverage isn’t anything like comprehensive. Lille and Antwerp airports, also not huge, are around 100K away and so the two Brussels international airports will be your likely entrance points.
From Brussels you can get a train to Oostende in less than 2 hours via Brugge. The Oostende train station has a classic and grand entrance, an attraction in itself, and is just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre.
To get to the ground from the train station the best option is a tram which takes less than 20 minutes. Get off at Oostende Northlaan (which is located opposite the stadium). The tram number is zero and it’s heading towards De Panne. Take the tram back into town after the game, all trams heading north will arrive back at the train station.
To take a bus from the station, number 6 is suggested although the bus driver on our visit refused to accept that. Take the tram, it’s quicker anyway!
If you are driving, you’ll arrive in the area on the E40 / A16. If you head to Middelkerke, south of Oostende, you can then drive along the N34 coastal road which includes views of Hitler’s WW2 defence bunkers and anti-aircraft armoury. From here the stadium will visible be on your right-hand side. Car parking suggestion from the club is Sea’rena MediaMarkt, Nothlaan 13.
Once inside the stadium all except the main stand is on the same level with no stairs. Accessing the larger main stand requires climbing stairs although lifts are available if you require special assistance. To gain access to the various bars inside the ground avoid buying in the E stand which restricts your movement to the rest of the stadium.
Tickets can be purchased from the fan shop/ticket office behind the C stand or online.
Return on Investment 5
Our 24-hour visit was easily achieved on a shoe-string budget. £50 return tickets for the car on the Eurotunnel from the UK. Only half a tank of diesel. Match tickets from 15 Euros each and a variety of good value accommodation options ensures this is a value-for money option!
Free gloves given out at all the stadium bars from the Belgium beer company ‘Maes’ were appreciated on a cold January evening!
No programme is issued which is always a disappointment (even though they are less and less available in mainland Europe these days). A team sheet given out in Club 31 is therefore appreciated.
Antwerp, Brussels and Brugge are top of most people’s lists when visiting Belgium, all have their merits. Go off the beaten track however and in the case of Oostende you will find a gem. Whether it’s the street art, the history, the beach or the seafood, 24 hours in this coastal city is time well spent. The stadium, with its elements of old and new, together with tall inward leaning floodlights to die for and decent prices is highly recommended. If you’re asked to visit, there should be only one reply, the words of Marvin Gaye – Let’s get it on!