Borussia Dortmund marked 50 years of the Westfalenstadion prior to their Matchday 28 meeting with VfB Stuttgart. - © Christof Koepsel
Borussia Dortmund marked 50 years of the Westfalenstadion prior to their Matchday 28 meeting with VfB Stuttgart. - © Christof Koepsel

Borussia Dortmund celebrate 50 years of the Westfalenstadion


Known worldwide for its iconic Yellow Wall, Borussia Dortmund marked 50 years of the Westfalenstadion prior to their Matchday 28 meeting with VfB Stuttgart. The home of German and European champions, the 81,365-capacity arena has created more than enough memories to last a lifetime…

A bucket list item for every football fan in the world, the Signal Iduna Park, as its known nowadays, has defined not just a team but a city for the past half century. The highest average attendance on the globe at over 80,000 every other week, in the past 50 years the Yellow Wall has become one of football’s wonders. Measuring 100 metres wide, 40 metres high and with an incline of 37 degrees, the 24,454-capacity stand is the largest terrace in Europe, and manages to fill itself up thanks to the pulsating football on offer.

Watch: The Dortmund stadium experience takes you through some of the most historic moments from 50 years of the Westfalenstadion...

First goal by a woman

BVB opened the Westfalenstadion with a curtain-raising friendly against local rivals Schalke in 1974, hosting 54,000 fans. Up first in the running order, though, was a match between two women’s teams, TBV Mengede and VfB Waltrop. Margarethe Schäferhoff of Mengede opened the scoring in the 18th minute and became the stadium’s first-ever goalscorer, a record which will go down in her family’s and Dortmund’s history.

Later that day, Schalke won the men’s friendly 3-0, but it wasn’t until two years later on the same day of April 2, 1976, that the first Bundesliga game took place. Schalke would again make history this time around, as rather oddly, they took on Bochum as the Ruhrstadion was being rebuilt, making their rivals in black and yellow wait their turn, since they were in Bundesliga 2 at the time.

The current Westfalenstadion is almost unrecognisable from the newly opened stadium in 1974. - IMAGO / WEREK

Historical highs, and brutal lows

The new Westfalenstadion provided Dortmund with the impetus they needed in 1976, as, two years after it was finished, they returned to the Bundesliga, and have remained in the top flight ever since. A steady improvement saw cup successes in 1988 and 1989, but it was 1995 where the arena had its crowning moment with a first Bundesliga Meisterschale, and another came the following year.

More cup success and even a UEFA Champions League win saw Borussia rise to the very top of the game in 1997, and later one of their most glorious periods followed when Jürgen Klopp arrived in 2008. Bringing his heavy metal football to the Ruhr, the iconic coach had the Signal Iduna Park bouncing like never before, and it got to witness two further title triumphs in 2011 and 2012.

Despite a total of five league titles, four DFB Cups and their European triumph, the Westfalenstadion has also experienced some lows, with much of the past decade seeing title bids painful collapse in favour of Bayern Munich. Most recently, in the 2022/23 season, the stadium was packed out to see Dortmund claim their first title in 11 years as they headed into the final day with a one-point lead over Bayern. Instead, though, a total collapse against Mainz allowed the Bavarians to sneak ahead left the stadium and the players on the pitch in floods of tears.

Watch: The story of the final day of 2022/23

Robben's penalty, magical Champions League night

Despite last 2023’s scenes, the Signal Iduna Park has also been the host of some of the most famous Der Klassiker moments for those in black and yellow, the most famous of which came in April 2012. Dortmund were on course to make it back-to-back titles, and things got even better when Robert Lewandowski scored the opener in the 77th minute. Drama struck eight minutes later when Roman Weidenfeller took down Arjen Robben in the penalty area, and BVB’s players screamed for a dive. Robben, though, missed his spot-kick, and was left with his hands on his head and Neven Subotić in his face. Dortmund held on, and took a six-point lead with four games to play, securing their fifth title.

A year later, season ticket holders were just as stunned in the Champions League when the Signal Iduna Park hosted Malaga in the quarter-finals of the competition after a goalless first leg. Klopp’s side were 2-1 down when the clock hit 90, but Marco Reus and Felipe Santana struck in stoppage time for one of the most dramatic moments in the stadium’s history. Two weeks later the yellow wall got to witness Lewandowski pump four goals past Real Madrid and book a ticket to the final at Wembley.

Roman Weidenfeller's save against Arjen Robben, and Neven Subotić's celebration, are part of the club's folklore. - 2012 AFP

From Westfalenstadion to Signal Iduna Park

Christened as the Westfalenstadion in 1971, it was Dortmund’s fans who got to choose the name. Günther Hammer, the editor of local news outlet Westfälische Rundschau, also sat on the club’s board and had the idea to run a fan survey for the untitled arena. Fans chose the Westfalenstadion by a large margin, taking inspiration from the Westphalia region where the city lies.

In 2003, with the club in the midst of a financial crisis, it was decided that naming rights would be sold to ease the burden. Insurance and financial services provider Signal Iduna won the honour, and the decision helped Dortmund avoid potential oblivion and plot their path to become one of Europe’s premier teams. The stadium was rebranded ahead of the 2005/06 season, and the name isn’t going anywhere any time soon, with the current contract between the parties running until 2031.

Watch: Inside Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park

World Cup spectacle in 2006 and European Championship venue in 2024

One of the host venues for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the recently renamed Signal Iduna Park was witness to Germany’s biggest celebration of the tournament, when David Odonkor sprinted the length of the pitch and laid on an assist for Oliver Neuville for a 1-0 stoppage time win over Poland.

Germany exited their home tournament at the semi-final stage with an extra-time defeat to Italy at the Westfalenstadion, but they’ll have the chance to correct that this summer with the stadium again a host for UEFA Euro 2024. The good vibes are back rolling with friendly wins over France and the Netherlands for Julian Nagelsmann’s side, and BVB fan favourite Niclas Füllkrug is looking like he will make an impact after a winner against the Dutch last time out.

Could Niclas Füllkrug give Dortmund fans even more Westfalenstadion joy in a Germany shirt? - Stuart Franklin

1000 games and non-football records

In February 2022, the Westfalenstadion reached a major milestone by hosting its 1000th game - a UEFA Europa League clash with Rangers. The arena has hosted a total of 12 different competitions, but that’s not all.

Contributing to the community not just with football, Dortmund use the arena for a number of fan events. A Christmas singing spectacle has become one of the city’s most famous events, and in 2023 a total of 73,056 fans turned up to sing Christmas carols for the fifth time, setting a record for events of its kind worldwide.