The BayArena: A guide to the house that Bayer Leverkusen built
The BayArena - or 'home' as Bayer Leverkusen call it - is a forward-thinking stadium for a forward-thinking club.
Die Werkself have been making weekly pilgrimages to the BayArena since 1958, when the stadium first opened its gates as the Ulrich-Haberland-Stadion, named after the former chairman of Bayer AG, the pharmaceutical company that founded the Rhineland club.
The stadium's design was based on Bochum's Ruhrstadion, and was built section by section over the years, growing bit by bit alongside the demands of the club.
Back then it held 20,000 spectators, before Bayer added a further 2,500 seats in 1997 and in the process became the first all-seater stadium in Germany. It was renamed the BayArena the following year.
Watch: Bayer Leverkusen - all you need to know!
Further redevelopment took place between summer 2008 and 15 August 2009, when the remodelled BayArena was unveiled with its unique nest-like roof structure and enough space for 30,000 football fans.
Leverkusen christened the stadium with a 1-0 win over Hoffenheim, a fitting way to celebrate their newly refurbished surrounds.
The BayArena hosted its first Germany international on 18 December 1991 as Die Mannschaft routed Luxembourg 4-0, and it also staged four FIFA Women's World Cup matches in 2011.
At the forefront of stadia technology, the BayArena broadcast the first live Bundesliga match in 3D when Leverkusen played Hamburg on 14 March 2010.
By car: Your two best options for navigating your way to the BayArena are via the A3 motorway at either exit 22 or 24. Both eventually pass under the A3, with the stadium signposted as you work your way along.
Parking: Bayer provide free parking on Matchdays at Kurtekotten, which opens two hours ahead of kick-off at the Chempark S-Bahn station. You can access the car park via Otto-Bayer Straße, from where shuttle buses run between the car parks and the Am Stadtpark terminus which is a short walk from the ground. Disabled parking is just opposite the stadium, next to McDonald's.
By train: There are a number of options if you're travelling by train, where most long-distance commutes will journey via Cologne Central Station. Head for any of Leverkusen Mitte, Leverkusen Schlebusch or Opladen Station and you're about a 10-15 minute walk away.
Generally speaking, tickets are relatively easy to come by, although they become hot property when the big boys come to town, or on Rhineland derby dates with Cologne, Fortuna Düsseldorf or Borussia Mönchengladbach. You can purchase tickets at the stadium, over the phone (+49 214 5000 1904) and online.
The aforementioned McDonald's does a roaring trade on matchdays, but there are also a number of food and beverage options inside the BayArena, ranging from VIP fine dining to bratwursts in a bun at one of the many kiosks.
The beer garden at the North West section and the Schwadbud in the East Stand are perfect for a pre-game bite, with ample options for refreshment.
Previously, you needed to top up and make payments on a BayArena card, but as of the 2019/20 season supporters can now use contactless payments with their bank cards, Apple or Google Pay.
If you're visiting by train, you may be tempted to swing by the club shop in the heart of Leverkusen, a stone's throw from Leverkusen Mitte. Otherwise, the club shop in situ at the BayArena is open Monday-Friday and also on Matchdays where you can shop to your heart's content as long as you have a ticket to the game.
You'll also find a couple of official pop-up stalls around the outside of the ground, each bulging with shirts and scarves.
There are many tours of the BayArena you can take, all of which offer a behind-the-scenes look at Leverkusen. There's the 90-minute public guided tour, as well as a barrier-free offering for the elderly, people with mobility issues and the disabled, with each costing six euros for kids and 10 euros for adults.
Groups of up to 12 kids aged 14 and under are also available, as are private tours that the club can design according to what you want to see. Possibly the best offering, however, comes on Bundesliga matchdays when you can soak up the early atmosphere at the ground with a 45-minute tour of the stadium's mixed zones and dugouts while walking through the tunnel out to the pitch just hours before the players do so themselves. For more information or to make a booking, click here.
Did you know?
Next door to the stadium is the club's 'Werkstatt', an innovative training facility for injury prevention and rehabilitation. The 2,200-square-metre centre attracts leading sportsmen and women from around the world, and counts NBA legend Kobe Bryant among its former patients. The ex-Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard made a number of trips to the Werkstatt's ice chamber during a storied career.
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