(Editor’s note: While Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism covered some of the author’s expenses in Istanbul, Dispatches Europe received no remuneration for this post.)
In mid-August, football fans will descend on Istanbul to witness the UEFA Super Cup (2019 edition). The face-off between the winners of the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool, and the UEFA Europa League, Chelsea, will take place in Istanbul’s Vodafone Park, home to Beşiktaş JK.
In addition to what is sure to be an exciting football match (that’s soccer to you, Americans), a visit to this relatively new stadium is a not-to-be-missed sports experience in and of itself.
NOT A BAD SEAT IN THE HOUSE
This award-winning stadium was built on the grounds of the team’s former arena, BJK İnönü Stadium. Nearly 42,000 fans fill the arena on game days in general seating, VIP seating, and executive suites and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Spectators will appreciate that even the standard seats have backs (no bleacher-style seating here).
Premium seats not only have backs, but are padded and embroidered with the Beşiktaş JK logo. The stadium has a selection of accessible seats that Liverpool and Chelsea fans can reserve in advance of the UEFA Super Cup. All seating is covered with a canopy that gives the arena an almost intimate feeling and protects the spectators from the summer sun.
It’s clear when visiting Vodafone Park that modernization was a primary consideration in its planning and construction. This “smart stadium” is equipped with broadband mobile and Wi-Fi networks that support the fan experience as well as provide for the information needs of the team, its management, and the media.
Mounted monitors and massive screens from Cisco Vision for Sports and Entertainment broadcast statistics, interviews, and other live content to fans throughout the stadium. Interactive screens are built into the headrests of the seats in the VIP sections and 1903 Stands.
The screens are part of FUNTORO’s infotainment solutions for stadiums and arenas and are similar to what passengers would find on the seat backs in airplanes. They show player information, up-to-the-minute scores, instant replays and more for an enhanced spectator experience.
HUNGRY FOR MORE THAN VICTORY
With just the touch of an icon on the setback displays, hungry fans can locate the nearest source of food and beverages, including a variety of casual cafés and restaurants, a separate lounge and restaurant for VIP visitors, and private dining services for box seat ticket holders.
More than 500 Avigilon cameras provide comprehensive security coverage throughout the park giving spectators and staff peace of mind before, during, and after the game.
Vodafone Park’s historic location in the Beşiktaş district called for unique design and building requirements. The narrow site is surrounded by landmarks and roads which limited the possibilities for expansion and did not allow for enough parking spaces to accommodate the number of fans who might want to drive to the stadium.
There are only 600 parking spaces reserved for VIP ticket holders, so most fans should plan to take public transportation on the day of the Super Cup. Google Maps lists driving, public transportation, and walking directions for Istanbul and can help you plan the best route to the stadium from your location.
The good news is, Istanbul has an extensive metro system and plenty of taxis.
THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE TOUR
If you’re in town before the big game, you’ll want to visit the stadium for a small-group tour. Guided tours for groups of up to 25 guests are offered daily between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. with the exception of game days, the first day of religious holidays, and New Year’s Day.
The tour costs 40 Turkish Lira (about 6 euros) for adults; 25 YTL for children between the ages of 6 and 14, students, seniors, and groups of 10 or more people; and is free for children up to age 6 and people with disabilities and their attendants.
The stadium tour lasts about an hour and a half and gives visitors a behind-the-scenes at the media room, the locker rooms, the VIP box, and views of the stadium from different seating areas. Tour participants are greeted with cheers as they enter through the players’ tunnel and proceed to the sidelines of the field where they can admire the atmosphere of the stadium when it is not filled with fans.
The tour includes a photo session with current and former team members, a participation certificate, and the option to visit the on-site museum.
A MUSEUM OF HISTORICAL PROPORTIONS
Football fans will enjoy visiting the Beşiktaş JK Museum in Vodafone Park. Turkey’s largest sports museum has exhibits and activities that are spread out more than 1,650 square meters on two floors. A collection of memorabilia including photos and videos, awards, jerseys, and autographed game balls tells the story of the club’s history.
Sing along with the club’s anthem, hear how loudly the fans cheer for the home team, get your picture taken with your favorite BJK player, and take a virtual roller coaster ride through the stadium and the Beşiktaş neighborhood.
SEE YOU AT THE SUPER CUP!
No matter which team you’ll be cheering for on 14 August, you’re sure to enjoy a warm welcome from the residents of Istanbul. This multicultural city at the intersection of Europe and Asia is proud to host the 2019 UEFA Super Cup in its newest stadium, which is near the banks of the Bosphorus.
For more information about the stadium (including the Beşiktaş JK Museum and the behind-the-scenes tour), visit the club’s website here.
For more information about the showdown between Liverpool and Chelsea, visit the UEFA Super Cup site here.
Many thanks to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for their invitation to visit the site of this year’s UEFA finals. The Liverpool and Chelsea fans are in for a rare treat when they travel to Turkey for the first all-English Super Cup match!