Date:Saturday May 20 2006
THE MILLENIUM STADIUM:
Built on the site of the Cardiff Arms Park by Laing, the stadium was completed in October 1999, at a cost of £130 million.
The stadium features a fully retractable roof which takes about 20 minutes to close and is the first of its kind to be constructed in Britain. The stadium is completely enclosed with curved corners and is mostly three tiered with an additional row of 125 executive boxes. Add to this two huge screens, suspended beneath the roof at each end of the stadium, and you have a sight to behold.
Unfortunately one end, the North Stand, is only two tiered as it backs onto the neighbouring Cardiff Rugby Club. Efforts were made to persuade the rugby club to move, but to no avail. Hence the stadium is built directly onto the rear of one of the rugby club stands and as there was insufficient space, a third tier could not be built.
Another unusual feature of this stadium is that the grass pitch is grown outside of the stadium and is brought in when needed, allowing the stadium to be used for other events. Periodically a falcon is flown around the stadium to keep Cardiff's pigeon population at bay.
The facilities are first class and there is plenty of leg room and height between rows, ensuring a good view of the action.
Although the stadium is huge, one pleasant surprise is that you don't feel that you are that far away from the playing surface. One slight complaint is that at the back of the lower tier, you feel a little cut off from the rest of the stadium as the second tier overhangs the first.
You still get a good view of the playing surface, but you can't see the whole stadium. To compensate for this TV screens are suspended beneath the roof above you so that you can see what is happening on the huge stadium screens.
Also the incline of the top tier (level six) is quite steep, needing some effort to climb to the top. On the plus side the acoustics and p.a. as you would expect are first class and a great atmosphere can be generated within the stadium.
Add to this friendly stewards, relaxed police and a generally welcoming local population, then you have all the ingredients for a great day out.
The good news is that unlike most other new stadiums, built on the edge of town, the Millennium is right in the centre of Cardiff. There are loads of bars and eating establishments to choose from. In fact there are over 70 bars within a quarter mile radius of the stadium, that can in total accommodate around 60,000 supporters!
However your choice of pubs will more than likely be restricted to which end of the stadium your team has been allocated, as fans then tend to congregate in the pubs around each end.
The South End of the stadium, has the larger bars centered around it in St Marys Street, where the usual names of Wetherspoons, Walkabout & O'Neils can be found. My pick of the bars in this area were the Wetherspoons outlet, the Prince Of Wales (a former theatre, where you can now have a pint in the royal box!) and if you are looking for a good pint of Brains, The Albert is just in front of the brewery. However, these pubs fill up quickly so aim to get there for opening time. Gareth Baglow recommends 'The Cottage' on St Marys Street.
At the North End, Danny Boy recommends the 'Owain Glyndwr' by the market and the 'Angel Bar' beneath the hotel of the same name. Whilst Bob Kurac a visiting Liverpool supporter adds; 'The City Arms is a cracking good pub, right opposite the entrance to gates 2 and 3. Two small bars, excellent ales (Brains) and a big screen for sports.'
Whilst Mark Tyler recommends 'The Cayo Arms on Cathedral Road. It is only five minutes walk from the stadium, has a 'beer garden' in front of it, so if the weather's good you can have a pre-match pint while sharing some banter with the opposing fans and soaking up the atmosphere as fans stream past on their way to the match. Directions - walking away from the city centre, cross the river Taff on the bridge just North of the stadium and take the first right. You are now in Cathedral Road and The Cayo is the first pub you reach, a couple of hundred metres up on the right'.
Just off St Marys Street is Caroline Street, nicknamed locally as 'chip alley'. The street is home to a number of kebab shops and chippies.
Alcohol is also served from one of 23 bars within the stadium, although please note that you are not allowed to take alcohol back to your seat. The bars are open until 15 minutes before kick off. Prices inside the stadium were 'par for the course' with pasties & pints being around £2.50. It was reasonably easy to get served before the game started, although for some reason the bars are closed at half time. Programmes retail normally between £4 & £5.
The stadium is well signposted from the M4 and surrounding routes, with electronic signs advising which junction to take. The junction exiting the M4 into Cardiff (up to four junctions are used 29-33) will depend on which Park & Ride scheme you will getting, as separate ones are set up for opposing supporters, and depending on whether you are going by coach or car. Unless you are going to be at the stadium several hours before kick off, then due to traffic restrictions put in force on matchdays, you will not be able to drive near to, let alone park by the stadium.
You will therefore have to use the Park & Ride service. The Park & Ride scheme is not free; it costs £5 to park, and there are huge queues waiting after the game to go back to the car parks. I would advise that you allow plenty of time for your journey as traffic congestion along the M4 and going into Cardiff can be quite bad.
Alternatively I would advise either stopping in Cardiff the night before, or drive part of the way and then get a train into Cardiff (see below).
To go to a simplified page, containing the directions and pub info, which you can print out click here.
Cardiff Central station is only a few minutes walk from the stadium, directly behind the South Stand. As you come out of the station, the stadium is across the road in front of you.
Fans may also consider driving to Newport station and getting the train for the fifteen minute ride into Cardiff Central. The cost of a 'off peak' adult return from Newport to Cardiff is £3.30 and the trains run regularly before and after the game. You can't park for long periods at Newport Station itself, but there is a large 'shoppers' car park on the other side of the dual carriageway to that of the station entrance.
Although advertised as a 'short term' car park you can park there all day and on my last visit this cost £3.90. I also noted that on Sundays the barrier to the car park exit is not in place, so you can in effect, park for free. Alternatively there is a smaller car park, just past the entrance to the shoppers car park, or if you continue up to the traffic island and turn right, there is another car park located over the bridge.
Info provided by www.football groundguide.co.uk
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