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The Arsenal Magical Mystery Tour: Veltins-Arena

One of the most stunning arenas in Europe hosts Arsenal tomorrow, as the Gunners look to recover their high-scoring form as they visit FC Schalke 04 tomorrow night in the UEFA Champions League

Joern Pollex

The amount of modern, sleek stadia across Germany is breathtaking. Many football clubs in the country play in some of the most innovative and imposing structures in the world. If one were to simply look at the Allianz Arena, or the Commerzbank-Arena or Westfalenstadion, one would easily understand why Germany is consistently viewed as one of the best places to host international tournaments and club competition finals. And there might not be a stadium that is more amazing in the country that can lay host to such events as described above than FC Schalke 04's Veltins-Arena, located in the Ruhr Valley city of Gelsenkirchen.







History: FC Schalke formed as a club by a group of high school students in a local Schalke pub, in the year 1904, as "Sportclub Westfalia 1904 Schalke" (hence, the "04" designation in their current official name). Although they successfully formed, they had trouble gaining admittance into the prominent football association in Germany at the time. In order to fulfill their ambitions, they merged with a gymnastic club "Turnverein 1877 Schalke." The two athletic clubs separated, then joined back up, before finally separating in 1924 with the football club officially taking on the name "FC Schalke 04" and switching their club colors to the blue and white that we all know well today. Four years after the club separated for good from the gymnastic club, they moved into the Glückauf-Kampfbahn, a multi-use stadium that was home to the club until August 1973. Unlike most stadiums that have been vacated by their clubs, the Glückauf-Kampfbahn is still standing and is currently being used by football club DJK Teutonia Schalke-Nord.



The club moved into Parkstadion, which more than doubled their capacity from Glückauf-Kampfbahn, at the beginning of the 1973-74 season. But it wasn't long, in stadium years, before plans were hatched by the club to move out of Parkstadion, as it was considered outdated by current standards, but also because there was the possibility that Germany was going to win the rights to host the 2006 World Cup and club and city officials didn't want to miss the windfall that comes with being a host in such an event. In 1997, club officials officially announced the project to build a modern stadium just to the immediate south of Parkstadion, capable of hosting some of the biggest events in the country and world.



Current: A UEFA five-star stadium with a league capacity of 61,673 (54,142 for European and international matches; like most stadiums in Germany, there are still standing room terraces in one end, and this area can be converted to seats if the occasion arises), the list of features on the Veltins-Arena is extensive.

First, let's start with the stadium's pitch that sits on a concrete-and-slag plate and slides in and out of the arena, which allows the stadium to host events of all kind, and was the inspiration for the same sort of design at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona...


via a retractable, steel-framed roof covered with a state-of-the-art membrane fabric that opens from the middle and out towards the ends of the stadium in less than 30 minutes...


via a four-sided video board, each holding a screen that is 377 squared feet in size, with a resolution that is equal to an LED screen that hangs directly from the center of the roof and can be seen from every seat in the stadium. Of course, just mentioning the unique video board alone would be a disservice to the rest of the 367 TV screens across the stadium. It goes without saying that one can simply not miss a moment of the action, no matter where they're at in the stadium.



There are many other features of the stadium, however I'll cap it at these in order to keep this article from expanding even more.

The Veltins-Nordkurve: This picture of the standing-only terrace pretty much sums up their level of support:



Getting there: It's quite simple for one to drive to Veltins-Arena. The arena complex has 20 car parks totaling 14,500 spots. The arena is conveniently located off the A2 motorway (which later merges into the A3) that services the entire North Rhine Westphalia region and neighboring cities Dortmund, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Leverkusen.