• Matthew Whiley

The Top 10 Venues I Most Want To Visit

Updated: Jan 14

Well, here we are, post number 10! The weeks since I set this blog up have gone rather quickly, and I've thoroughly enjoyed getting into the habit of writing a new post every week. I want to thank everyone who's liked, followed, shared, read, commented, or otherwise supported me as I've learned the art of blogging, and in honour of the tenth post, I thought I'd write a top 10 list.


The stadiums within which top-class sporting action takes place can define the action just as much as anything that happens on the pitch. Stadiums the world over are described as 'cathedrals', 'theatres', 'shrines' and 'fortresses'. For a lot of people, the venue plays a huge role in the matchday experience, especially if it's somewhere they've never watched a game live before.


I'm a keen traveller, not of the intrepid-jungle-explorer, sleeping-in-hammocks variety, more the I-once-went-Interrailing-and-travelled-in-first-class-the-whole-way variety, but I do love to visit new cities, and one of the things I always try and do in a new place is visit any major stadiums that are there. I've been lucky enough to do stadium tours of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Johann Cruyff Arena, Lord's, and the Millennium Stadium, to name but a few.


Anyway, the point is, stadiums are great. As I said, I've been lucky enough to visit, or at least walk around the outside of, some of Europe's (and a couple of Australia's) most famous venues, but, in the words of Veruca Salt, I want more! Here's ten sporting venues that I wish I'll be able to get to one day...


10) Rogers Centre, Toronto, Canada

We're starting in Canada's largest city, at the home of my Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Why are they my team? Well, Toronto the city is very much on my bucket list outside of any sporting context, and the fact they're the only team in Canada also piqued my interest. As with my selection of the Vikings in the NFL, I've had to resort to exceptionally tenuous ways to pick my teams in the major North American leagues, having never visited either the US or Canada. Although the Rogers Centre looks nice, and it does have a slick, domed retractable roof, this one makes it into the list purely based on the team that plays there. Let's go Blue Jays!


9) Twickenham Stadium, London, UK

Moving closer to home, next on the list is the UK's second biggest stadium, and the home of English rugby union. It's the only one in the top five stadiums in this country by capacity I haven't been to, so that automatically grants it a place on this list. I don't count rugby among my very favourite sports, and nor is anything particularly spectacular about the design of Twickenham either; it's simply a three-tiered rectangular stadium. The things it does have, however, are copious and equal amounts of history and tradition, and simply as a sports fan I love visiting big stadiums. I may not follow the sport too closely, but this post is about stadiums, so Twickenham deserves its spot.


8) Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore

We're certainly going on a world tour here, aren't we? Canada, to the UK, and now to Singapore. This one is possibly cheating a little bit, because I have actually been to the circuit - I walked up and down the pit straight when I visited Singapore a few years ago. However, I'm including it because I very much want to visit when there are actually Formula 1 cars doing their thing around it (and I definitely wouldn't be walking up and down the pit straight when they are). Much like rugby, I've never been a Formula 1 die-hard, but the floodlit Singapore Grand Prix has always captured my attention. I'd love to go back to Singapore, and hopefully I can time it to see Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull et al. duel on the streets of downtown Singapore at night-time.


7) Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, Australia

As far as cricket stadiums go, you would most often look to the scenery that surrounds them in order to describe them as picturesque, but not in the Adelaide Oval's case - it is the ground itself that's beautiful. A huge renovation project was completed in 2014, and it now seats over 55,000 people, making it the third-largest international cricket venue in Australia. It combines history with modernity in equal measure, with the new 14,000-capacity Riverbank Stand at the southern end contrasting with the still-working 1911 scoreboard opposite. It's become associated with cricket under the lights, blossoming into the home of Australia's day/night Tests, as well as New Year's Eve domestic Big Bash games hosted by the resident Adelaide Strikers. Having been to Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney, the capital of South Australia is firmly on my list.


6) Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, USA

From South Australia to South Florida, and we're keeping with the theme of recently-redeveloped stadiums. Hard Rock Stadium lies a few miles north of downtown Miami, and is home to my Dad's NFL team, and one of the most famous in the league, the Miami Dolphins. Unlike the Adelaide Oval, this particular redevelopment reduced the seating capacity slightly, from 75,000 to 64,000, but no less of a world class stadium emerged out of it. The stadium hosted Super Bowl LIV in February this year for the first time in its new configuration, affirming its status as one of the best in the league. Out of 31 other NFL teams, there's only one I'd rather watch more than the Dolphins (more on that later), and Hard Rock Stadium is solid at number six on the list.


5) Silverstone Circuit, Northamptonshire, UK

Given that I've previously admitted to having only a passing interest in Formula 1, the inclusion of a second F1 circuit in a list of only ten venues might raise a few eyebrows, but hear me out. The British Grand Prix, over the last few years, has produced some of the most memorable races of recent times, and I would say I'm lucky to have Silverstone right on my doorstep - well, certainly on my doorstep in F1 terms, anyway. My F1 aficionado friend Jack has been many times, and always returns with a glowing review. Much like Singapore, simply for the occasion, and given I've never seen an F1 race live before, Silverstone makes it onto the list.


4) Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

A no-brainer, isn't it? Any football fan, even a casual one, wants to visit the home of FC Barcelona, one of the giants of European football, and if I'm honest, I'm rather hoping this one will happen in the near future - spiky viruses allowing - because of one man, Lionel Messi. I'm desperate to see him play in the flesh before he retires, and given he's now 33, I might only have a few more years. Yes, I know he's heavily linked to a place much closer to home in Manchester City, but I'd much rather see him do his thing in a Barcelona shirt. Away from sport, Barcelona is high up my travel wish list anyway, so if I can shoehorn in a match at the Camp Nou with some time in Spain's second city, then all would be good.


3) Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town, South Africa

Stunning. Simply, just stunning. Newlands regularly features at the top of lists of most scenic cricket grounds in the world, and with Table Mountain and Devil's Peak, as well as the famous and historic Newlands Brewery providing a backdrop on the ground's western side, it's not difficult to see why. I'd add that any stadium located in a city where you can go shark cage diving merits inclusion just on the basis of that, but the fact that Newlands has the scenery it does, and the history it does - hosting its first Test match in 1889, it is the second-oldest venue in South Africa (by just a couple of weeks), and with a capacity of 25,000, it's also one of the country's biggest. Much like the mountains that provide its backdrop, Newlands sits high up in this list.


2) US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, USA

We're back in the US of A and back at an NFL stadium for number two, as we visit the home of the 2021 Super Bowl champions... no, OK, fine, even I can't keep a straight face when I say that. A Lombardi Trophy might not be in the offing this season, but I'm still hopeful we'll see one on display in the not too distant future at the four-year old US Bank Stadium, home of my Minnesota Vikings. This one is really an architectural marvel, too; it's designed in the shape of a Viking longboat and, although it is completely indoors, is filled with natural light from a huge glass wall at one end. I really hope I'll get across to Minnesota and watch the Vikings in person one day. Skol!


1) Westfalenstadion, Dortmund, Germany

Two words - Yellow Wall. Borussia Dortmund's 81,000-seater Westfalenstadion, officially the Signal Iduna Park, sits atop my stadium bucket list by a fair old way, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the famously thunderous atmosphere created by the stadium's 24,454-capacity South Stand. Renowned for creating intricate, stirring, and sometimes frankly terrifying, mosaics that cover the entire stand, it's the largest standing terrace for spectators in European football. A few years ago, I thought if I was going to start following the Bundesliga, I'd need a team. I don't really know what drew me to BVB specifically - the most likely reason is probably the Klopp connection, but maybe their singing of You'll Never Walk Alone plays a part too. Whatever the reason, the Westfalenstadion tops my list.


I could probably extend this list to a top 50, but you don't have all day to read that, so I've trimmed it down to the best. I'm really hopeful I'll get to visit each and every one of these soon enough, but in the meantime, I'll make do with dreams.


I want to know what your ten would be as well! Let me know by commenting on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/longstorysport) or replying on Twitter (https://twitter.com/LongStorySport). As ever, I'm always open to comments, suggestions, queries, and feedback, so please do get in touch using the form at the bottom of the homepage or through my social channels.


Signing off,

Matthew


The cover image for this post is used with the kind permission of Jack Goult.

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