On Saturday, Sweden proudly opened their new national stadium, the Friends Arena. No football was played yet though, as instead was chosen for a night of Swedish artists.
The Friends Arena is Sweden’s first large modern arena, and is another example of what currently constitutes as best practice in stadium building. In fact, the stadium greatly resembles Lille’s Grand Stade Métropole, which opened only a few months ago.
Their core characteristic is that they are in essence multifunctional arenas, which means that the standard football lay-out can easily be converted into various concert and event set-ups with different capacities. The Friends Arena can, for example, quickly convert its surface from a football pitch, to a gravel floor, or an ice rink. It also has a retractable roof that can be opened or closed in 20 minutes.
In March 2013, the stadium is therefore able to host Sweden’s World Cup qualifier with the Republic of Ireland, the national ice hockey final, and a Eurovision Songcontest show in the span of only three weeks.
The standard capacity of the stadium is 50,000 seats, which are divided over three tiers. Presumably, the smaller middle tier will, as is common, be mainly used for hospitality purposes.
The complex around the Friends Arena, located in the suburb of Solna in the north of Stockholm, will be further developed in the upcoming years. These developments include the large Mall of Scandinavia shopping centre, various hotels, and residential buildings.
One of the shareholders of the new stadium is the Swedish football federation, which means that the Friends Arena will become the standard playing venue of the Swedish national team.
The first kick-off at the stadium will take place in just over two weeks when the Swedes receive the English national team for a friendly. In February 2013, Messi’s Argentina will then visit the stadium for another friendly. Sweden’s remaining World Cup qualification matches will also be hosted by the stadium.
The official opening night, however, was a series of concerts by Swedish artists, including Roxette, The Hives, and Loreen. The event was the most expensive ever held in Sweden with a price tag of SEK 50 million. The complete arena has come at a cost of SEK 2.8 billion (app. US$ 420 million).
The arena initially went by the name of Swedbank Arena as the Swedish bank Swedbank had bought the naming rights. Later, however, Swedbank decided to rename the stadium to advance the local Friends charity, which fights against bullying of children.
From 2013, the Friends Arena will furthermore become the home of local club AIK. This, however, also sadly spells the end of Råsunda Fotbollstadion, one of Europe’s classic football stadiums. Råsunda, which hosted the 1958 World Cup final and was a playing venue during the 1992 European Championships, is expected to get demolished when the Friends Arena is fully operational.
Apart from the Friends Arena, the city Stockholm will soon welcome another new arena. The Tele2 Arena is scheduled to open next year and will become the home of the other two teams of the city, Hammarby IF and Djurgårdens IF. It will be somewhat smaller though with a capacity of 30,000 seats.