Last week, I decided to start my long journey at the Emirates. No specific reasons, but I was always told that it was a beautiful stadium, and having visited Highbury, 20 years ago to the date i thought it would be a fitting tribute.
Let me first start by saying that, according to wikipedia, Arsenal Football Club is a Premier League football club based in Holloway, London. The club has won 12 FA Cups, the most of any English club, 13 League titles, two League Cups, 14 FA Community Shields, and one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Arsenal was the first club from the south of England to join The Football League, in 1893. They entered the First Division in 1904, and have since accumulated the second most top flight wins and points. Relegated only once, in 1913, they continue the longest streak in the top division. In the 1930s, Arsenal won five League Championships and two FA Cups, and another FA Cup and two Championships after the war. In 1970–71, they won their first League and FA Cup Double. Between 1988 and 2005, they won five League titles and five FA Cups, including two more Doubles. They completed the 20th century with the highest average league position.
I begin my journey by arriving at waterloo. I get the Northern Line (black) to Leicester Square and then jump onto the Piccadilly Line (Blue) to Arsenal tube station. Once you arrive you turn right and start walking. You will notice on your left the facade of Highbury and then few yards later you go up some stairs over a bridge. That bridge caught my eye because there is still a picture of Fabregas (I am obviously not a fan but I would have thought it would have been removed). Any how you get to the stadium and I must say that it looked really impressive. Modern architecture. I start to get excited (nerd!).
I get into the megastore where the stadium tour begins and I am greeted well by all staff (I did not shout i was a United fan). I pay and the first thing to know is that the visit is not guided by a bloke but by a little black box that you see tourists wearing when you visit a museum! Now I must say that it makes perfect business sense (get people moving faster and less people on the payroll) but I am old school and I always prefer to have a guide that leave and breath is club. Anyhow, here I go with the pram and my son and I must say how easy it is to access all stadium points with a pram or armchair. You have got few security peeps but all nice and friendly. You first get to see the corporate hospitality and their luxurious space (not for me thank you) and then off you go to the dressing rooms (rather big), press areas and of course the pitch. From inside the stadium is a peach and you just want to throw a ball and go and have a kick about (you wouldn’t go too far). The grass is immaculate. The Emirates Stadium is seen by many, including myself, as the benchmark for top league stadia developments in the UK and Europe. Its design is a radical break from the traditions of the “English style” stadia of the United Kingdom and the Municipal multi-tenant stadia of Europe. The focus on spectator experience for both general spectator and the Corporate or Premium Hospitality spectators marked a step change in stadia design and consequently on the football business in the UK, with Arsenal increasing their matchday revenues by 111%. The architect, Christopher Lee of Populous, described the design as beautiful and intimidating. Now the latter part I disagree. The stadium does not feel like that to me and almost feel impersonal. There is very little history having been achieved their, and apart from the Manchester08 banner, their is a lack of cachet/atmosphere. Saying that I do find it beautiful, and although not my favourite stadium it is up their with the best.
Official information regarding the stadium tour: http://www.arsenal.com/5002/
Cost: £20 adult
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 4/10
Stadium Tour: 7/10
Overall mark: 7/10