Name: Millennium Stadium
Address: Millennium Stadium PLC, Gate 4. Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1NS
Opened: 1848 (cricket at Cardiff Arms Park)
Last renovation: 1999
No. of seats 74,500
Home teams: Welsh national football and rugby teams
Millennium – more than a stadium
Since opening in June 1999, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium has welcomed over 1.3 million visitors per year. With the first retractable roof in the UK, the stadium is a multi-purpose, all-round venue. With a UEFA 5-Sr.ar rating and two Rugby World Cups, two Wales rugby union Grand Slams, three Heineken Cup finals, six FA Cup Finals plus a plethora of major international football matches, concerts and motorsports events on its CV, the Millennium Stadium is established as a world-class, must-play, must-visit venue and has been home to five major sporting bodies over the last nine years.
Erected on the site of the old Cardiff Arms Park, the world-famous home of Welsh rugby, the Millennium Stadium was primarily built for the 1999 Rugby World Cup. As early as 1994, a committee was set up to look at redeveloping the Welsh national stadium and linking the redevelopment to the regeneration of
West Cardiff. In 1995, Wales won the right to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup against severe competition from the southern hemisphere, but a review of the national stadium at Cardiff Arms Park (designed in 1962) showed that it had long since been overtaken, as the rugby union bodies in England and Scotland had developed stadiums with capacities of 75,000 and 67,000 respectively and France was about to build the Stade de France with a capacity of over 80,000.
RUGBY WORLD CUP
Capacity at the old national stadium was just 53,000 (including 11,000 standing on the East Terrace) and new safety regulations meant that the capacity would be further reduced by all-seater arrangements. There were no spectator facilities in the old stadium other than toilets. It was decided that the new stadium should have a roof to accommodate a requirement for multi-use as well as a natural grass pitch for rugby and football. Therefore a retractable roof was incorporated into the design brief. The only other retractable roof in Europe at the time was at the Amsterdam ArenA (with a capacity of 50,000), the home of Ajax.
A number of different development options were considered. One included adding a third tier to the existing stadium; another suggested moving to a completely new site. The Millennium Stadium redevelopment option that was eventually chosen and supported by the Millennium Commission became the fourth redevelopment in the history of the Cardiff Arms Park site.
It was clear from the budget requirement for the new stadium (of over £100m) that Government funding would be needed, but the only potential source of funding at the time was the National Lottery — set up in 1994 — as one of eight major UK projects of the Millennium Commission.
The Commission was prepared to fund a maximum of £50m of the redevelopment so Welsh Rugby Union decided to raise the remainder of the £ll4m budget from commercial sources. After competition from the proposed Cardiff Bay Opera House in March 1996, the Millennium Commission agreed to support the redevelopment of Cardiff Arms Park by turning the stadium 90 degrees, developing over existing sites and demolishing the Empire Pool on the corner of Wood and Park Street to create an open plaza guaranteeing safe access and entrance for spectators.
Critics claimed the project could not be completed on schedule, but the doors to the new Millennium Stadium were thrown open for the first time in June 1999 when Wales welcomed world champions South Africa for a Rugby World Cup warm-up match. Four months later, the stadium successfully hosted the opening ceremony of Rugby World Cup 1999, three group matches for Wales, a quarter-final, the third-place play-off and the Rugby World Cup final between Australia and France. The Millennium Stadium proved to be a triumph for Welsh ingenuity as fans from around the world flocked to marvel at its architecture and revel in the raucous atmosphere created in a superb stadium that now held 74,500 spectators.
A GREAT CHOICE
As well as playing host to matches involving the Welsh national rugby and football teams, the Millennium Stadium soon became a venue of choice for concerts and other sports such as speedway, motocross, rugby league and boxing. Stars from the music world to have appeared at the stadium over the last nine years include Madonna, Tina Turner, Robbie Williams and Bruce Springsteen, whilst mega-bands such as U2, The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bon Jovi and the Manic Street Preachers have all graced the Millennium stage in front of huge, enthusiastic audiences.
Cardiff also struck gold in 2001 when The Football Association elected to transfer its major club matches to the Millennium Stadium after work started on the new Wembley. Six FA Cup finals were played in Wales, including the epic 2001 match between Liverpool and Arsenal, and the Millennium Stadium also hosted numerous League Cup finals and Football League play-off matches before Wembley eventually reopened for business in 2007.
What makes the Millennium Stadium so special is its superb location right in the heart of Cardiff city centre. Situated on the banks of the River Taff, 200 metres from the main railway station, the stadium is a magnet for visiting fans who love to soak up the big-match atmosphere whilst socialising in the city’s numerous bars, cafes and restaurants situated just a few blocks away. Crowd trouble is virtually non¬existent with everybody seemingly intent on enjoying a memorable day out at one of European sport’s most prestigious and convenient venues.
The Millennium Stadium is a popular venue with the players, too. Following his side’s 2007 League Cup final victory over Arsenal — the last all-English match played in Cardiff before Wembley reopened -Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard commented: “It has been a fantastic venue. I’ve really enjoyed playing here. I have lost once and won twice so I have a good record and have liked it on every occasion. Wembley is the spiritual home of the FA Cup and obviously everyone would like to play there, but while it has not been possible, the Millennium Stadium has been a great choice.”