The Arsenal Magical Mystery Tour: Etihad Stadium

Scott Heavey - Getty Images

Etihad Stadium, previously named City of Manchester Stadium before the owners of Manchester City secured the largest stadium sponsorship rights in the world last summer, was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games that took place in Manchester, and was leased by the city of Manchester to the club. Originally designed as an athletics stadium with one tier along three sides of the stadium with an open north end that was accompanied with a second tier on the east and west sides, the stadium was converted for all-football use once the Games commenced. Following the conversion and football opening in the 2003-04 season, three tiers adorned the east and west stands, an additional tier was added to the south end and the north end was closed up and giving the same matching two tiers as its opposite stand.

History: For the clubs first 36 seasons of their existence they played their matches at Hyde Road, a little over a mile south of their current location, and from 1923 until City's move in 2003, the club played their matches at Maine Road, located on the south part of Manchester. Maine Road was a ground that had significant character and noise, but aesthetically the stadium was a hodgepodge of structures; each stand displayed specific traits that could easily link it to the time period it was constructed. Geographically, the club has faithfully stayed within the Manchester city boundaries for their entire lifespan, which has helped lead credence to the belief that the majority of actual Mancunian residents support City as opposed to Manchester United, which technically is outside of Manchester city limits and located in the western borough of Trafford. Being that Hyde Road, the club's ancestral home, and Etihad Stadium, the club's current home located in the Eastlands, are east of Manchester's city center, it also make sense that the further east (and south, considering their 80 year run at Maine Road) in the city you go the "bluer" the support becomes.

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via upload.wikimedia.org

Etihad Stadium: A category four stadium as designated by UEFA (the highest possible category being five) and host of the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, the Etihad's capacity is 47,805 seats, which is the 4th largest stadium in the EPL this season, and contains state-of-the-art design features throughout the structure. Nearly all seats are covered by a roof that is supported by cables attached to twelve masts (four masts on the west and east stands; two masts on the north and south stands) that surround the outer ring of the stadium - the largest mast reaching heights of nearly 250 feet tall. To allow for maximum light and to promote grass growth, the last ten meters of the roof are translucent and the corners of the stadium have louvers that allow for air to get down to the pitch, which sits six meters below ground level. As a result, along with the heating coils and proper draining system, the pitch is constantly recognized as one of the best in England. Being a club run by arguably the most ambitious owners in the world, the stadium's set to undergo even further transformations. The grounds in which it sits on will be redeveloped to the tune of £1 billion and in its place will be a state-of-the-art training center, hotel, retail and plans to expand the Etihad's north stand to push the capacity past 60,000. If you're a City supporter, as good as the product on the pitch has been for the past couple years, the stadium has been the perfect backdrop to the exciting matches and you can't help but be excited for the stadium and the area's future.

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via upload.wikimedia.org

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via upload.wikimedia.org

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via upload.wikimedia.org

Getting to the Etihad: The nearest train station is currently a 20 minute walk south of the Etihad, however that will be changing before the end of the year as the city will be opening a light rail station immediately to the northeast of the stadium as a part of the ever-expanding light rail lines throughout the metro area which connects to Manchester Piccadilly, the main artery for all train transport located to the immediate east of the city center and the location many away supporters first arrive at in the city. Even though the stadium is just a little over a mile east of the city center and set in the middle of urban areas and parkland, there are 2,000 car park spots at the stadium and another 8,000 close by for the supporter who wants to drive to the match.

Away Supporters: Good news! After they leave their section next to the pitch in the southeast part of the stadium (here's a good photo to show you the location of the away supporters), they get held back after the match is over in a fenced pen just outside the stadium to allow the home supporters time to leave. This sort of holding away supporters back while the home supporters disperse the area is very common, but this is still exciting, no? And if an away supporter is lucky enough, they will come across an intoxicated Gallagher brother and be able to berate him silly as they dodge his drunken fists of fury being lazily thrown in their direction.

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via upload.wikimedia.org

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via upload.wikimedia.org

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