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Eighty-one thousand three hundred and sixty-five

...That's how many fans fit into SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, Germany's largest soccer stadium

If you had told the people of Dortmund 30 years ago about a soccer temple with over 80,000 seats in the middle of their city, about a stadium with a glass façade, grass heating and the largest standing-room-only stand in Europe, everyone would have smiled indulgently at such fantasies. Today, SIGNAL IDUNA PARK on Strobelallee is indeed Germany's largest soccer stadium. Capacity: exactly 81,365 seats. The fact that this giant almost broke Borussia's financial back is another story, which has fortunately been resolved since the end of May 2006...

The venue on Strobelallee, known to fans simply as “the temple” and often described by the press, professionals and celebrities as “the most beautiful stadium in Germany”, is now one of the largest and most comfortable arenas in Europe following the completion of the third expansion phase. A long process of construction and redesign has reached its climax with the conversion work for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Nevertheless, there is never a summer break when there is no work going on in the stadium.  BVB invested ten million euros in renovating the outdated stadium in 2012 alone. Not only was the pitch completely renewed, but also the drainage system in the southern half of the pitch. The south stand was reinforced with support measures and concrete renovation work was carried out in the north. In the east stand, seven additional boxes were created in the area of the former press room. New video cameras with impressive digital technology increase security. In particular, the guest block and the lower tier of the “South” are under increased surveillance. New scoreboards were installed the year before. 

The stadium story begins over 40 years ago, on 5 April 1965 to be precise. After four long years of discussions about expanding and modernizing the aging “Rote Erde” stadium, the city's main and finance committee “takes note of the suggestion not to expand the Rote Erde stadium, but to build a new soccer stadium by including the two western practice pitches and a small area of the Luftbad”. The first hurdle on the way to a new arena, officially known as the “twin stadium” (because it is being built parallel to the Rote Erde), has been overcome. 

However, the project did not receive a decisive boost until the city of Cologne decided not to build a new stadium in the early 1970s, paving the way for Dortmund's bid for the 1974 World Cup - and thus for the construction of a new stadium. Without the federal and state funds made available for this occasion, the Westfalenstadion could not have been financed. 

Dachbau des Westfalenstadions

On April 2, 1974 - nine years after the decision by the municipal committees - the time had finally come: the Westfalenstadion could accommodate 54,000 spectators, most of them standing, in its original state. It is inaugurated with a friendly match against Schalke 04 and has lost none of its fascination to this day. On the contrary. Radio reporters rave about the “Scala of German soccer” when they talk about this unique atmosphere: the proximity to the pitch, the acoustics thanks to the complete roofing, coupled with the unique enthusiasm of soccer fans in the region. All this creates a crackling atmosphere that captivates visitors and is feared by opponents. In a survey in May 2006, the professionals of the 18 Bundesliga clubs named the venues in Hamburg (28%) and Dortmund (27%) as their favorite.

Strictly speaking, the history of SIGNAL IDUNA PARK goes back to 1961, when the sports committee first discussed the expansion of the “Rote Erde” stadium. Even at that time, with structural change looming in the coalfields and the incipient crisis in coal and steel, money was just as tight as it is today. It therefore took ten years before the city council decided to build the Westfalenstadion on October 4, 1971. The question of financing could not have been resolved more quickly. 

Although the German Football Association was awarded the contract to host the 1974 World Cup in 1966, Dortmund's plans for a stadium to be built using conventional construction methods and costing around 30 million euros were in danger of being shelved shortly afterwards. Despite the clear council decisions, the administration repeatedly investigated the possibility of expanding the existing facility in the hope of saving costs.

In May 1970, sports director Erich Rüttel achieves the decisive breakthrough with his proposal to build the stadium as a prefabricated system in pallet construction, following the example of the Canadian Olympic city of Montreal (1976). The costs were halved, originally 27 million marks (just under 14 million euros) were being discussed. After completion of the construction work, it should only have been seven million marks more.

Just five months later, on October 19, 1970, the council gave these plans the green light and decided to build the Westfalenstadion the following year. Over 80 percent of the costs of 17 million euros are covered by the federal government, the state, “Glücksspirale” and donations. The city pays just three million marks of this sum because it recognizes in time that the 1974 World Cup tournament offers a unique opportunity to build a suitable arena for the future. Because: no funding without a World Cup bid. Especially as the temporary grandstand in the south curve of the “Red Earth” is already showing signs of damage and an internal paper from the planning committee states: “After dismantling this grandstand, the capacity will be reduced to 25,000 seats.”

The Westfalenstadion, on the other hand, is to seat 56,000 spectators. After completion, there will be just under 54,000, of which only 17,000 will be seated. The fact that the majority (47,000) of the seats were covered was particularly appreciated by the then President of BVB, Heinz Günther. It also offered “the little man a roof over his head”. Not a matter of course at the time.

Die Südtribühne in den 70er Jahren

Zaire, Scotland, Sweden, Brazil and runners-up Holland play their preliminary round matches in the Westfalenstadion in 1974 - Dortmund is suddenly in soccer fever again. The enthusiasm that prevailed in the glorious 50s and 60s flared up again during the World Cup and also spread to the matches in the second Bundesliga. It was not unusual for more than 45,000 fans, around three times as many as just a short time before in the “Red Earth”, to suddenly make the pilgrimage to BVB, which benefited greatly from its new stadium. Two years later, in June 1976, Borussia returns to the top German league, celebrates its comeback at European level in 1983 after a 15-year absence, wins the DFB Cup in 1989, the German championship in 1995, 1996 and 2002, enters three European finals - and wins one of them, the most important, in 1997 against Juventus Turin in the UEFA Champions League.
Until 1992, visitors experience the Westfalenstadion largely in its original state for 18 years. In the following 14 years, there are repeated drastic changes, five in total. In 1992, the capacity was reduced to 42,800 spectators by converting standing room into seats in the north stand. As part of “expansion stage one”, an upper tier with 6,000 seats each is added to the west and east stands just three years later. In a second expansion phase in 1999, the capacity is increased to 68,600. The South Stand, the epicenter of Dortmund's soccer enthusiasm, is expanded to 24,454 seats, making it Europe's largest standing-room-only stand. For international matches, the standing areas can be converted into seats.
On May 6, 2002, work finally begins on the closure and expansion of the corner areas. First, 15 meter long bored piles are driven into the ground in the north and south areas and placed in the corners of the future staircase. They will transfer the incredible load of 3,000 tons per grandstand roof to load-bearing soil. The foundations for the columns and staircases are laid on these piles. Another highly demanding engineering task concerns the construction of the stadium roof. The corner pylons inside the stadium, which support the roof and would obstruct the view of the new seats in the extended corner area, are being replaced by eight yellow steel pylons installed on the outside.

Das Westfalenstadion

The third expansion phase, completed on September 13, 2003, not only increases the capacity by around 14,000 spectators. BVB is also setting new standards in terms of cultivated hospitality. With a total of 3,450 hospitality seats, SIGNAL IDUNA PARK also has the largest capacity in the league in this area. Nevertheless, the proportions in Dortmund are just right: In relation to the total capacity, the catering areas only accommodate a modest percentage of visitors.

The eight 62-meter-high yellow pylons are now prominent exclamation points in the Dortmund skyline. Since December 2005, the up to 3.50-meter-high letters of the new namesake, visible in black during the day and glowing white at night, can be seen from far away on Federal Highways 54 and 1.

BVB fans have proudly embraced their temple without hesitation after the expansion. The fabulous attendance records of recent years speak volumes. An awe-inspiring structure and phenomenal fans provide the best conditions for many thrilling football festivals in the most amazing (and largest) venue in the Bundesliga. After World Cup-related renovations (including the removal of the last seats from 1974 and the dismantling of the "pre-stands") and modernizations, it now offers exactly 81,365 seats starting from the 2015/2016 season.

Only one footballer has truly bad experiences in the "Scala" on Strobelallee in these 32 years: Danilo Popivoda from Braunschweig. On April 23, 1977—worms had infested the pitch—Popivoda stands unmarked less than six meters from the Borussia goal, winds up for a shot, and slips along with the turf, which gives way due to the eaten roots. He lands on his face while the ball stops short of the line. Borussia and Braunschweig part with a goalless 0-0 draw...

Die Südtribühne in den 70er Jahren