SIGNAL IDUNA PARK
Eightyone thousand three hundred and sixty-five
That's how many fans fit into SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, Germany's largest football stadium
If you had told the people of Dortmund 30 years ago about a football temple with a capacity of over 80,000 in their city centre - a stadium boasting a glass façade, undersoil heating and the largest stand in Europe - they would have all smiled tolerantly at such a fanciful notion. Nowadays, though, the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on Strobelallee is Germany’s largest football stadium with a capacity of exactly 81,365. The fact that the outlay for Borussia’s enormous arena almost crippled the club financially is another matter entirely – and one which was fortunately resolved at the end of May 2006.
The venue located on Strobelallee – known as “the temple” by fans and regularly dubbed “the most beautiful stadium in the country” by the press, professionals and VIPS alike – has been one of the largest and most comfortable stadia in Europe since the third expansion phase was completed. A long process of construction and conversion reached its peak when the stadium was renovated in the run-up the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Yet works are carried out on the stadium every summer, with BVB investing some ten million Euro in the renovation of the now-ageing arena in 2012 alone: both the grass and the drainage in the southern half of the pitch were replaced; the south stand was strengthened by support measures; concrete sanitation measures were implemented in the northern part; seven new VIP boxes were added in the part of the east stand where the press area used to be; new cameras armed with impressive digital technology provide greater security, with the away area and the lower tier of the south stand in particular under increased observation; and in the year before new scoreboards were installed.
The stadium story began some 40 years ago - on 5 April 1965 to be precise. After four long years of discussing the expansion and modernisation of the somewhat outdated "Rote Erde" arena, the city’s Central and Financial Committee "took note of the suggestion not to expand the Rote Erde stadium, but instead to build a new football stadium by incorporating the two western practice fields and the small surface area occupied by the air bath". The first step on the path to building a completely new arena - named the "Twin Stadium" in official circles in view of its parallel construction to the Rote Erde - had been taken.
Yet the project did not gather full momentum until the city of Cologne decided against building a new stadium at the start of the 1970s, paving the way for Dortmund to apply as a host city for the 1974 World Cup – and for the construction of a new stadium. Without the federal and state funding provided, the financing of the Westfalenstadion would simply not have been feasible.
On 2 April 1974 - nine years after the official decision had been made – the Westfalenstadion was officially opened, with the stadium offering 54,000 predominantly standing spaces. The inauguration took place in a friendly match against Schalke 04. And the stadium has lost none of its aura since. Quite the opposite, in fact. Radio broadcasters rave about the “temple of German football” when they report from such a unique arena: the proximity to the pitch, the acoustics thanks to its complete roofing and the unique passion the fans in the Ruhr have for the beautiful game. All of this creates a crackling atmosphere, casting a spell over spectators and striking fear into opponents. An opinion poll in May 2006 saw professional footballers at the 18 Bundesliga clubs rate the grounds in Hamburg (28%) and Dortmund (27%) as their favourites.
To be precise, the history of the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK dates back to the year 1961. It was then that the Sporting Committee first discussed the expansion of the "Rote Erde Arena". In those days, which were characterised by structural change in the Ruhr and the onset of the coal and steel crisis, money was no less of a boundary than it is today. That goes some way to explaining why ten years went by before the Council decided on 4 October 1971 to build the Westfalenstadion. Finances still proved problematic, though.
The German Football Association might have been awarded hosting rights for the 1974 World Cup in 1966, yet Dortmund’s plans for a new stadium to be constructed in a conventional design – thus costing 30 million Euro - threatened to fall apart. Despite the clear decision by the Council, administrative authorities were still exploring the option of expanding the existing arena in a bid to save costs.
The head of the sports department Erich Rüttel succeeded with his proposal to build a stadium based on the model of the Canadian Olympic City of Montreal (1976) using prefabricated construction methods. It was the decisive breakthrough. The costs were halved, with the outlay in initial talks estimated at 27 million Marks (almost 14 million Euro). By the end of the construction works, it came to seven million Marks more.
Just five months later, on 19 October 1970, the Council gave the plans the green light and decided to begin building the Westfalenstadion the following year. Over 80% of the 17 million Euro costs were funded by federal and state support, lottery takings and donations. The city contributed three million Marks to this sum, realising early on that the 1974 FIFA World Cup would offer them an unprecedented chance to construct a suitable arena for the future – without the World Cup there would have been no funding. After all, the provisional stand in the south curve of the "Rote Erde" already showed signs of damage and an internal paper by the Planning Committee revealed: "After the dismantling of this stand, the capacity will be reduced to 25,000."
The Westfalenstadion, on the other hand, would hold 56,000 fans. Ultimately, it was around 54,000, although only 17,000 places were seated. The fact that the majority of spectators (47,000) were covered by a roof received special praise from BVB's then President, Heinz Günther. It offered "the average man in the street" a roof over his head, which was by no means usual at that time.