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First Base is the equivalent of an 'Editorial'. It is the opportunity for S & A to provide comment and provoke discussion on topical issues relating to leisure and tourism. This will be provided each month and we would welcome your feedback on the matters raised.

First Base 13: Volksparkstadion, Hamburg - A Stadium that reflects the City

Date: 20/5/2004

A month ago when Sports Minister Kate Hoey misguidedly re-opened the debate about all-seater stadia and the potential to re-introduce standing on the terraces one exemplar stadium was often quoted

The Volksparkstadion in Hamburg, home to HSV Hamburg. The Football Licensing Authority sent a delegation to experience the stadium and its ability to transform a standing area for 8,500 people into an all-seater facility for European games. Earlier this month S & A were asked by the City and County of Swansea together with 'Leisure Management' magazine to examine the Volksparkstadion and report on its operation and management.

The full report on this visit will feature in a later edition of LM and in a confidential report to the City Council. In the meantime, however, I would like to reflect on a wider set of experiences that placed the impressive and extremely well-managed Volksparkstadion into its wider environment.

As a result of this experience I am seriously of the view that stadia reflect and are mirror images of their host city. They are, and need to be, an extension of the city in every respect. Perhaps it was this synergy that helped give the Colesseum its real sense of place. Perhaps it is this elusive ambience that successfully ensured Cardiff's Millennium Stadium's rightful place in FA Cup history following last Saturday's Final between Arsenal and Liverpool. It certainly applies to Hamburg.

This city of the Hanseatic League (an historic term and not a furerunner of the Bundeslega silly) is stylish, modern, green and welcoming. On arrival at the modest international airport I was greeted by the most engaging and knowledgeable "bell-girl" from the Kempinski Atlantic Hotel (my hosts for the next three days). A tour of the city's superb range of sports facilities took place en route from the airport.
The Atlantic hotel is first class and the Manager, Stig ... runs an establishment that exudes the best of hospitality ... courteous and discreet, helpful but unintrusive, stylish but without pretention - an establishment that lives up to the standards set by the Kempinski Group and by the Leading Hotels of the World, of which it is a member.

Lunch in a floating restaurant on the inner lake, a stroll along the shore of the outer lake, and coffee in one of the classy arcades. Service standards of the highest order.

A stroll through the city. The Freeport now boasts a Merlin Entertainment 'Hamburg Dungeon'. A standard format that works and has been tweaked to reflect the history of the host city. And so, time to move towards the stadium. HSV versus Hansa Rostock ... a local derby fuelled by the prospects of one of these teams possibly facing relegation if they lost.

The stadium is some 5km out of the city centre and located at the heart of the 'People's Park'. A large forested area with a wide range of facilities for casual recreation and sport.

The stadium is linked to the railway station and the underground by a fleet of free buses for the 15,000 fans who use public transport. Car parking is immediately around the stadium.

Once again on arrival I was warmly greeted by everyone I met - most of whom could speak English. Kurt Krūgel (Events Manager) and his entire team exuded hospitality. I had free run of the entire stadium. The facilities, the service, and the refreshment provision throughout the stadium and throughout the Game were first class. The VIP restaurants had a service standard that would have suited the Atlantic Hotel. There are real lessons here for our aspiring first class sports venues.

In short ... a great city, a great stadium, and a wonderful, very memorable experience.

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