Date: July 2003

MUNICH, Germany– By this time in 2006, the international sports world will be focused on Munich, Germany, as the inner-tube shaped Allianz Arena is slated to host the opening game of the World Cup soccer finals on June 9 of that year. The $356 million (U.S.), 66,000-capacity venue is expected to open its doors a year before that.

City politicians hope this will bring back the glory days the city enjoyed during the 1972 Summer Olympics, but without the terrorism that will forever mar memories of that event.

Construction on the unique stadium began in October 2002; the exterior should be finished by the end of this year; and the facility should be ready to host matches in spring 2005. “We're right on schedule,” said Fritz Scherer, joint managing director of the stadiums holding company, Muenchen Stadion GmbH (Munich Stadium Inc.).

While serving as the kickoff point for the world's biggest sporting event is a coup, the stadium's main purpose is no less spectacular. Allianz Arena will be home to the city's two Bundesliga (first division) soccer teams: the beloved FC Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich. The archrivals, which joined forces to create Muenchen Stadion, will split the stadium costs, making Allianz Arena Europe's first privately funded stadium, said Scherer, a deputy chairman on FC Bayern's supervisory board.

The three-tiered complex is located in the district of Froettmaning, less than 10 miles northeast of the city center, about 20 minutes by car to the city's international airport. Munich construction firm Alpine Bau Deutschland GmbH (Alpine Construction Germany Inc.) is building the stadium it designed in association with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The partners are also working on another architecturally striking venue, the National Stadium in Beijing, site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics (look for upcoming VT feature).

Even before construction began, the Allianz Arena was given the nicknames the “rubber boat” and the “life belt” because plans depicting the stadium's exterior make it appear puffy. The stadium gets its look from its inflatable, diamond-shaped shell, which can be illuminated in different colors. For example, the stadium will take on a red hue when FC Bayern is the home team and turn blue when TSV 1860 is the host.

“That way fans from both teams can feel it's their team's stadium,” Scherer said. No decision has been made on what color the stadium will be when the teams compete against each other. Other fan-friendly amenities include halls of fame for each team, fan restaurants for each squad (placed at opposite ends of the stadium), a family-style restaurant, a terrace restaurant, a café and bar, three playgrounds, and 28 kiosks. Fans also will benefit from the stadium's design, which puts them closer to the action. A complaint about the team's current home, the Olympic Stadium, is that fans are seated too far away from the field. Layering the fans in three sections – 20,000 seats in the lower tier, 24,000 in the middle and 22,000 in the upper – and having a roof that provides cover for every paying customer will change the way soccer is enjoyed in Munich, proponents say.

“It's a totally different atmosphere,” Scherer said about playing in a soccer-only facility. “The people can feel the difference because the mood is more intense.”

While the stadium's official capacity is 66,000, its north and south sections can be converted into standing terraces to accommodate additional fans. There are 2,200 business seats and 104 VIP boxes that can hold approximately 1,400 spectators. The stadium has 200 seats for the disabled at the main entrance ground level.

The sooner the stadium is ready, the sooner the teams can start meeting their financial commitments. In an interview, Scherer said that FC Bayern has put up an $89 million shareholder loan, which is earning standard interest rates. The rest of the money is coming from $267 million in long-term loans from Frankfurt-based lender Eurohypo AG.

Scherer frankly stated that the teams need the stadium to start generating revenue long before the World Cup starts. FC Bayern and TSV 1860 will use the stadium for the 2005-2006 league campaigns, which should start in summer 2005. Muenchen Stadion officials also hope Germany will win the right to host the 2005 Confederations Cup – a tournament featuring top teams from the world's different soccer federations – and they hope German soccer officials will pick Allianz Arena as one of the tournament venues.

Also helping the coffers is a deal with Munich-based insurance and finance giant Allianz. The company has the stadium naming rights until June 30, 2021. Published reports say the deal is worth $107 million, but Scherer, who opted not to give the actual amount, said the deal was worth about half that much.

Until the new complex is completed, the two teams will continue to host matches at the multi-purpose Olympic Stadium. Before the idea for Allianz Arena was born, a complete overhaul of that venue, the centerpiece of the 1972 Summer Olympics, was considered. But the plan crashed in 2000 because citizens, monument preservationists and the stadium's original architect opposed the renovation plan. The setback turned out to be a blessing for the city. “This remodeling project would also have cost the city 200 million marks [$121 million, U.S.] – and no one would have thanked us [the City Council] for this expenditure,” Munich Mayor Christian Ude said. “Monument preservationists and friends of the architecture would have considered it a vandilization of the stadium and no soccer fan would have been happy with the result.”

“Thanks to the stadium, we are getting the opening of the 2006 World Cup and the media [attention],” Ude said. “This is comparable in significance to Munich [to] the 1972 Olympics.”