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Amsterdam ArenA

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Action: Ajax + internationals + indoor extravaganzas
Location: south east Amsterdam in a new commercial, leisure and retail district
Opened: 14 August 1996 
Accommodation: 51,859 all-seated
Information: Not a stadium, but an 'ArenA'; an air-conditioned, multi-purpose venue under a roof that takes 35 minutes to close. The pitch is on the third floor, above two levels of parking, with a dual carriageway running under the half-way line at ground level. Instead of cash for snacks and drinks, fans must purchase ArenA cards, like phone cards. These speed up queues but also earn the ArenA operators extra income from those who never bother to cash in the unspent sums left on their cards. Clever stuff! 
Simon says: Dominated by its overwhelming steel roof framework, this great hulk of a stadium (sorry, ArenA) is like a giant machine, with a wide, passion-killing concrete moat around the pitch and a tasteless colour scheme. Also, the turf needs to be replaced every few months because the design shuts out light and ventilation (which is why the operators are desperate for the next generation of artificial pitches to be developed). All the same, this is an important prototype for the future. I may not like it, but the corporate thinking behind it will not go away. Welcome to football in the 21st Century.
A fan's view: At first it was hard to find an Ajax fan satisfied with the Arena. There was even a hilarious book published about its faults. But things have changed. The operators abandoned the idea that going to a football match had to be a Disney-like experience. So we got rid of Champy the mascot, the B-artists before the match, childish games during the break and a dixieland band after the game.
The Arena cards are now simpler to use. We can buy a normal match programme again, and the pitch that caused a handful of ligament fractures is better than before.
The retractable roof? The first year they seemed to think 'we have a roof so we must use it‚' creating an atmosphere like futsal (indoor football). But now it's just there for weather protection and I don't think we've played with a closed roof this season.
Since moving from our old de Meer stadium, which had only 18,000 capacity, we have 30,000 new fans able to see Ajax. They have made themselves at home. The lack of aggression feels good and the view from every seat in the stadium is excellent.
As to the Arena's multi-functional promises, there are some American football matches, the occasional artist and some indoor events. But for us Ajax fans it is the traditional football elements that make us happy. And I must admit, qualifying for the quarter finals of the Champions League sure helps us to like our new surroundings better.
Tijs Tummers (section 114, lower tier, row 14 seat 99) is an Ajax fan and stadium historian.



Simon Inglis, December 2003

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