Stadion An der Alten Försterei
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|Stadion An Der Alten Försterei|
|Former names||Sportplatz Sadowa|
|Location||Köpenick, Treptow-Köpenick, Berlin, Germany|
|Renovated||1952–1955, 2000, 2008/2009|
|Owner||Federal State of Berlin|
|Scoreboard||Manual and digital|
|Capacity||21,704 (League Matches)|
|Field size||109 × 73 m|
|1. FC Union Berlin|
Stadion An der Alten Försterei (English Stadium near the old Forester's house) is a football stadium in the German capital Berlin. It has been home to football club 1. FC Union Berlin (and its forerunners) since it was opened on 7 August 1920. The stadium's capacity was approximately 18,100 spectators until its complete redevelopment, which commenced in the summer of 2008. It is now just under 19,000 although some important development aspects (seated main stand and V.I.P areas) have not been carried out yet. The club's management, with the backing of the fans, decided the stadium would now have a capacity of just under 19,000 including 3,014 seats (just over the minimum required for the 2. Bundesliga) whilst the rest of the ground remains terracing.
In 1920 SC Union Oberschöneweide (forerunner of today's 1. FC Union Berlin) had to find a new home ground as its former pitch had been built over by developers with residential buildings. The club moved a little further away from the city to the north-western part of the borough of Köpenick. The new stadium was officially opened in August 1920 with a match between Oberschöneweide and the then German champions 1. FC Nuremberg (1:2). The inaugural match in at the Alte Försterei had already been played on 17 March, when Union challenged Viktoria 89 Berlin- an illustrious club who had won the German Championship three times around the turn of the century - to a friendly.
When Union won promotion to the DDR-Oberliga (the top flight in East Germany) in 1966, the stadium soon needed to be expanded. The ground was first expanded in 1970 when the Gegengerade terrace was raised, whilst further extensions to the terracing at both ends in the late 1970s and early 1980s increased the capacity furthermore to 22,500.
However, the somewhat spartan facilities at Alte Försterei had quickly begun to show their age though, as the club was not able to properly maintain the expansive ground as attendances - in common with the majority of clubs in the East and West - went into a serious decline. Later, after German reunification, when Union were assigned by the German Football Association to play in the 3rd league, the outdated stadium proved only one of a number of factors that hampered the club's push for promotion to higher leagues.
Prior to the redevelopment in 2008, the terracing at the ground was in such a poor state of repair that its continued use was only on condition of the capacity being drastically cut to 18,100 spectators. In the late 1990s, Union were only allowed to continue playing at the Alte Försterei on the basis of special temporary licenses until the DFL (German Football League) stopped continue renewing these in 2006, meaning the stadium would soon no longer be eligible to stage any matches in the top three tiers of German football. The club were therefore forced to make a decision as to whether they would redevelop the Alte Försterei or make a permanent move to a different ground, something that which was unlikely to have been approved by large sections of the fan base who consider the ground to be the club's spiritual home.
In the late 1990s the first plans for the future of Union's home began to be drawn up. After several years of planning and discussion on various proposals, the redevelopment of the Alte Försterei finally began at the end of the 2007/08 season. Along with the main work of replacing the crumbling stone and cinder terracing with concrete terracing and installing a roof over the previously open terraces, many other minor improvements were completed, such as the installation of new perimeter fencing, new seats in the main stand and undersoil heating and a digital scoreboard (although the famous old manual scoreboard in the corner between the Gegengerade terrace and the Zuckertor(waldseite) end of the ground has been retained). Most of the work during the redevelopment was carried out by over 2,300 supporters volunteering their services. Specialist firms were only called in for more complex tasks such as installing the cantilever roof.
After playing their home matches at the Jahn-Sportpark in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district during the 2008/09 season, the stadium was re-opened on 8 July 2009 in time for a friendly against fellow Berlin side Hertha BSC. Since the redevelopment, the stadium has also been used for a small number of non-football events, among them rock concerts and bike shows.
The 1,500-seater main stand is also considered inadequate and is in a poor state of repair. Union Berlin would need a higher seating capacity in order to seriously compete at a higher level. The lack of V.I.P. facilities has meant that Union, despite their relatively large attendances, were falling behind other clubs with more modern facilities in this respect.
The second phase of redevelopment will focus on the construction of a new main stand with 3,800 seats and 36 executive boxes. It started in May 2012 and reopened in summer 2013 with the club inviting over Scottish giants Celtic to officially reopen the stadium.
- "Neue Haupttribüne". Stadion An der Alten Försterei. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
- www.fc-union-berlin.de Page on official Union Berlin webiste (German)
- www.stadion-an-der-alten-foersterei.de Stadium official website (English)