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September 12, 2011 / benwolfson08

Trip to the Emirates

Standing outside the Emirates aka God's Stadium

Watching Arsenal play just makes me think how I became an Arsenal fan. This summer I lived in North London for a month and took a class exploring the British Press. We had class about three or four times a week depending on how many tours we were taking and in my free time I visited Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal, Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea, White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur, and Anfield home of Liverpool.

Each trip was memorable in its own, but I have never been more wowed by a stadium for any sporting event than I was at the Emirates. My roommate Nick and I, who was probably the reason I became such a huge football fan when I was in London took the bus to the Emirates. North London is a beautiful part of town, unlike Tottenham. We got there about half an hour early and spent the time walking around in amazement. If the outside of the stadium was any indication on what the inside was like I knew this was going to a life-changing experience as a sports fan.

The Emirates was built in 2006 after Arsenal moved from legendary Highbury Stadium.

The Emirates is located in the borough of Islington, which was where I lived in London. Islington is a quiet borough with barely any tourists and lots of nice quaint pubs and local restaurants, far away from the hustle and bustle of touristy central London.

In July 2006, the stadium opened and cost approximately £390 million… which is almost $620 million dollars.

With the money spent on the stadium, one could expect it to be state-of the art and it certainly was.

View from Arsenal.com of the Emirates (left) and Highbury (right)

The first thing I noticed was that our guide was extremely dressed up in a suit and tie for this tour. This is Arsenal and he wanted to be classy. Of the tour guides, this one was one of the most thorough tours. I can’t imagine how long it had taken him to memorize all the history and facts of the stadium and of the club.

We were greeted in a lobby by a statute of current coach, Arsene Wenger. The French coach came to Arsenal in 1996 and has transformed them into a contender in the English Premier League, including his finest season the 2003-2004 Arsenal team nicknamed ‘The Invincibles’ a team that won the league at the Gunner’s arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur after going undefeated in the regular season with a record of 26-0-12.

Bust of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's current coach

From the lobby we took an elevator down to the lower level of the Emirates. This was a lobby in where Arsenal player’s would come in after they parked their cars and take to the dressing rooms.

In this lobby there was a time capsule that was planted when the Emirates opened and won’t be opened until years later.

player's lobby

From there we went to the place where the magic happens — The home players locker rooms. The dressing rooms were immaculate and as our guide told us they were designed in the Feng-Shui fashion according to specifics from Wenger. The floors were designed for the players to be able to walk around barefoot after they shower without slipping. The lockers are set up in a horseshoe so it is easier for everyone to communicate. Mood lighting highlights the room and a table in the middle of the dressing room is low enough for everyone to see each other.

Wenger thinks this dressing room will calm his players down. Not surprisingly the visiting locker room isn’t designed with these specifications. Our guide told us the visitors had to deal with slippery floors, bright lights, and a square box room.

physio room

Besides the actual dressing room, the Arsenal players facilities include a physio room with massage tables for players to get worked on before and after games. Exquisite shower and bathroom facilities also highlight the players locker room.

They also have a massive walk in hot tub for the players.

massive hot tub for players

view of the horsehoe

Then we finally were able to go out the players entrance in what was my favorite part of the entire tour… walking through the tunnel onto the pitch. Our guide lives for this part. As we were walking out through the tunnel, he played a recording from match day of 60,000 Gunners fans screaming and singing as the Arsenal anthem is playing over loud speakers.

Walking out onto the sunny pitch was amazing. You truly see how large and state of the art the Emirates is. We were able to sit in the same seats the players and coaches sit in on the sidelines which are custom made Citroen car seats.

Walking onto the pitch I could feel goosebumps on my arms and neck. I could only imagine what the stadium would feel and sound like with over 60,000 fans packed in singing with Arsenal scarves waving in the air.

Love at first sight exists because it happened after that stadium tour. I became a full-fledged Gunners fan.

Here are some more pictures of my memorable visit.

press room, in the EPL they cater to journalists. They have personal chefs, working quarters and food and a private bar just for the writers covering the football matches.

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