Into the top half with a forest cabin, a huge bowl, a 19th-century classic and a stadium that keeps the desert cool
50. Stadion An der Alten Försterei
- Located Berlin, Germany
- Opened 1920
- Tenants Union Berlin
- Capacity 22,012
- Record attendance 22,012
Union Berlin’s brilliant ground won’t be winning architecture awards, but you can’t design charm like this. Nestled in a clutch of forest in Germany’s capital city, the second-tier side’s home has gone through some rough times: in 1966 it was expanded to its current capacity, but the club couldn’t afford its upkeep in the underdeveloped East Germany and only in 2008 – long after the nation’s reunification – was its cinder terracing replaced with concrete, a roof built, undersoil heating installed and a modern scoreboard introduced.
But that was no ordinary building work: most of it was done with the help of around 2,300 Union fans who volunteered their services to bring their team’s stadium into the 21st Century. It’s those same fans who create a racket on matchdays, and who only three seasons earlier had donated their blood to raise the money required for a league licence.
Since 2003, meanwhile, the stadium has hosted its famous annual Christmas carol singing event. In 2014, fans were invited to bring their sofas to watch Germany’s World Cup-winning run. This, as you can tell, is no ordinary club – and certainly no ordinary stadium. – JB
I WAS THERE: “You might feel like you’re going to disturb a German pensioner when you walk down the cobbled path towards Union’s cottage-like ticket office, but you know you’re in for a unique experience. Upon taking my place on the terrace I was handed a red banner to unfurl when the players jogged out. The results? You can see below.” – Joe Brewin, FFT's Digital Features Editor
— Die Eisernen (@DieEisernen) December 7, 2014
49. Rose Bowl
- Location Pasadena, USA
- Opened 1922
- Tenants UCLA Bruins (gridiron)
- Capacity 92,542
- Record attendance 106,869
American architecture has a different hierarchy to the Old World, but by any standards the Rose Bowl is a grand old stadium. A US National Historic Landmark finished the year before Wembley first opened, it’s a vast coliseum of a place capable of packing them in: north of 90,000 witnessed Mexico’s recent win over USA in the 2015 CONCACAF Cup.
In some ways its size counts against it: although the NASL’s Los Angeles Wolves and MLS outfit LA Galaxy have been tenants, they understandably struggled to fill it. It was built for, and ended up giving its name to, the huge events which came to be known as “bowl games” (Super Bowl, etc); it also hosted the finals of two World Cups (1994 men’s, 1999 women’s) and the 1984 Olympics football tournament.
Playing an important role in the history of various American sports, the Californian coliseum was the site of the 1993 Super Bowl before which the late Whitney Houston sang what many believe to be the best live performance of The Star-Spangled Banner, in no small part to the beautiful surroundings. – KH
#FFT100STADIUMS The 100 Best Stadiums in the World: list and features here