The Lotto Thuringia Arena in Rennsteig is a biathlon stadium near Oberhof which is located 814 meters above sea level directly on the main ridge of the Thuringian Forest. Until 2003 it was called the Biathlon Stadium Rennsteig, until December 2007 Rennsteig-Arena Oberhof, until December 2018 after the sponsor Deutsche Kreditbank DKB-Ski-Arena. Lotto Thuringia has been namesake since January 2019.
Biathlon World Cups are held regularly in the stadium. The track near Oberhof is considered to be one of the most difficult tracks of the entire World Cup and the number of spectators to date has been one of the highest of all World Cup events.
Table of Contents
In 1953 the first patrol run, the predecessor of today’s biathlon, took place in Oberhof at the fourth GDR ski championships. The actual start of the biathlon in Oberhof, however, was in 1958. Since the biathlon was included in the program as a competition at the Olympic Games in 1960, the Army Sports Club (ASK) Vorwärts Oberhof, the predecessor club of WSV Oberhof 05, trained biathlon from 1958 and won two titles the same year at the GDR championships. For this purpose, a shooting range was built on the Kalten Mark, 600 meters southwest of today’s Rennsteig Arena, directly above the barracks on the 869-meter high Saukopf. Pioneers built for training the army and civil construction companies set up an asphalt roller ski track 600 meters northwest of today’s arena. At the Olympic Winter Games of ASK Oberhof was then a complete biathlon team in the GDR.
Biathlon stadium on the Rennsteig
The great successes of the biathlon team in the GDR, among others, the first Olympic victory by Frank Ullrich in 1980, prompted the Ministry of National Defense at the insistence of ASK Oberhof in the early 1980s to provide for the construction of a biathlon stadium for better conditions for the biathlon in Oberhof because the old shooting range was very often affected by fog. A shooting range was then built on the area of the old shooting range, which is still used for training today.
The Defense Minister of the GDR, Army General Heinz Hoffmann, finally gave the order to set up a shooting range. The location was determined without a proper procedure, without involving the local authorities and the construction was carried out by pioneers of the National People’s Army(NVA) started in the area of the falling brooks. The location of the stadium turned out to be extremely unfavorable because of the difficult terrain. Impenetrable forest on a sloping slope, large amounts of stratified water, swamp, mud, and an adjacent rock made the construction of the stadium difficult. A long period of rain in the summer of 1981 brought additional problems. Protests against the building were ignored with reference to the ministerial order. The council of the district immediately lifted a pronounced building ban. No consideration was given to the fact that the construction site was located in the area of the Fallback springs, which are vital for Oberhof’s water supply.
The pioneers, under the direction of Karl Koch, cleared a 170 by 145-meter area in May 1981 as a construction area for the biathlon stadium. A total of 40,000 cubic meters of earth was removed, partly in extra shifts, because of the many interruptions in rain. The two-story control building with a floor area of 10 by 20 meters, as well as a single-story, hit display building, 6 by 10 meters, were erected in the shell by the end of November 1981 and expanded inside during the winter months. The buildings were completed on September 30, 1982. In the spring of 1982, the construction of the shooting range and the roller ski track began. The shooting range sat on 70 in-situ concrete foundations. A swap body served to allow athletes, coaches, and officials to get into the interior. In the exit area of the stadium, another bridge made it possible to cross the routes. For the first time in the history of biathlon, a fixed screen system was used in the protective wall behind the shooting range. The shooting range had 32 lanes and was equipped with folding targets developed in the GDR and also with paper targets.
Control building 2003 Various running routes, each three meters wide, were geared towards the classic running style in parallel lanes. For the later skating style of running, for which a wider slope is required, the routes were sometimes too narrow. This state of affairs continued until the 2002 renovation.
On March 3, 1983, the biathlon stadium experienced its competition premiere with the GDR championships, when the reigning world champion Frank Ullrich won the opening decision over the men’s 20 kilometers in ideal weather conditions. With the onset of thawing weather, the Oberhof sports facility had its first international test one week later with the biathlon decisions of the army Spartakiade of friendly armies. Despite competition temperatures of three degrees plus and continuous melting of snow, this event was also very expensive – the NVA transported snow from the region around Frauenwald and from the 983-meter high areaBeerberges approach – a success. Many generals of the socialist armies were present at these competitions. The guest of honor was the President of the International Union for Modern Pentathlon and Biathlon ( UIPMB, the predecessor organization of the IBU), the Swede Sven Thofelt, who was Olympic champion in modern pentathlon in 1928. In a circle of celebrities, there was Rolf Hackel, the mayor of Oberhof.
In 1984 the first biathlon world cup took place in Oberhof. A few more World Cups followed in the next few years until the facility was comprehensively modernized in 1992, for the first time, primarily in the technical area. The biathlon stadium, which was initially under the NVA and after the turn of the army, was handed over to the Bundesleistungszentrum (BLZ) on January 1, 1997, with the shooting range.
After Oberhof was awarded the contract for the 34th Biathlon World Championships in 2004 at the Congress of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) in Salzburg in 1998, plans were made to build a completely new stadium. The construction work was started by STRABAG Thuringia under construction manager Cordes with the symbolic groundbreaking on May 28, 2001. The old biathlon building from 1982, which until then had prevented the spectators from having a clear view of the competition area, was torn down and replaced by a modern, three-story building with a gross volume of 3500 cubic meters and a roof terrace. The area of the Rennsteig Arena is now 60,000 square meters. The bridge in the exit area is the only structure of the old stadium that has been preserved.
Next to the building was a 105-meter-long main auditorium with a 90-degree arc that extends to the shooting range and offers standing room for 8,000 people. From here you have optimal visibility of the shooting range, the penalty lap, the start, and the finish line. On the other side of the building, there is an additional mobile grandstand that can accommodate further 4,000 people.
In the interior, athletes, referees, and journalists, coming from the control building, can get to the internal functional areas through an underpass without crossing the competition lanes. The firing range was rotated nearly 90 degrees. For the complete renovation of the stadium area, 130,000 cubic meters of earth had to be moved, 2000 cubic meters of ready-mixed concrete installed, and 340 tons of steel processing. The existing biathlon courses were widened from three to six meters with 10,000 square meters of bitumen.
105-meter grandstand 2003 On September 13, 2002, 16 months after the groundbreaking, the topping-out ceremony for the functional building was celebrated during the German Championships. The remaining construction work was carried out in 2003. The first competition took place at the Biathlon Germany Cup from December 20-22, 2002, the first international competition with the Nordic combined discipline on December 31, 2002.
In 2003 the city council of Oberhof decided to rename the sports facility, which was previously called the Biathlon Stadium on Rennsteig, to the Rennsteig-Arena Oberhof. The stadium festival with the unveiling of a plaque with the new name took place on September 20, 2003. The TCC Media Workshop GmbH in Zella-Mehlis developed a standalone logo for the new stadium.
The cost of the renovation amounted to around 6.1 million euros. The Free State of Thuringia contributed the largest share of 3.4 million euros. Another 1.45 million euros came from the federal government. The district of Schmalkalden-Meiningen contributed 600,000 euros and 230,000 euros came from the city budget of Oberhof. The Federal Employment Agency has taken over 400,000 euros. According to other sources, the conversion amounted to approximately 6.4 million euros.
In December 2007 the naming rights of the arena were sold to the Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB), which is also a sponsor of several biathletes. The name change in DKB-Ski-Arena Oberhof was unanimously adopted at a special meeting of the Oberhof city council. At the Nordic Combined World Cup on December 30, 2007, the stadium was given its new name for the first time.
In December 2017, the DKB announced that it would withdraw from sponsorship at the end of 2018. Since January 1, 2019, the stadium has been called Lotto Thüringen Arena am Rennsteig.
After the bid for the biathlon world championship 2023, extensive renovation work was announced. The starting area and the penalty loop are to be relocated, the grandstands are to be expanded, two new functional buildings are to be built, better access for athletes and supervisors is to be created and the route (especially at the so-called “Frankfurter Kreuz”) to be changed.
The arena is located almost 2.5 kilometers west of Oberhof on the so-called Grenzadler, with approximately two-meter high boundary stone with a Prussian eagle, 837 meters above sea level. At Grenzadler there is also a large parking lot with the same name and a barracks for the Bundeswehr sports promotion group. In the army barracks completed in 1961, the biathletes, who had previously been housed in the Kammerbacher stalking house, later found new accommodation. The area of the Grenzadlerparkplatz was formerly also Schützenwiesecalled. 200 meters south of the Rennsteig Arena leads the eponymous for Rennsteig arena Rennsteig over a 169.3 km long Höhenwanderweg, wherein the Grenzadler occupies the kilometer point 61.4.
The stadium has a capacity of around 11,000 spectators. 6500 of them have space on a 105-meter long grandstand. This is subdivided into blocks A to G and is located to the left of the control building. A mobile tubular steel grandstand on the other side of the control building holds 4,000 spectators. This grandstand includes blocks H and I. For the 2008 World Cup, 980 seats were created in the lower part where there was previously standing room, which reduced the capacity of this stand by around 1000 standing places. The grandstands are designed so that the sightlines to the shooting range are only 55 to 160 meters long. Other sources give 9,000 spectators for the 105-meter grandstand and 6,500 spectators for the tubular steel grandstand. Because of the increasing number of spectators for the 2006 World Cup, at the end of the sawdust round, at the height of the former target area before the stadium goes, an additional grandstand, known as the forest grandstand, was built. This offers space for another 1000 people. The capacity of this platform was raised to the World Cup 2008 to the 1500th The view into the stadium is somewhat restricted from there.
Up to 8,000 spectators are allowed on the courses, and up to 10,000 spectators for World Cups. Most of them are near the Bird Steig, where a video wall is also set up. There is also a swap body in this area to enable spectators to cross Bird Steig in order to get to other parts of the route. For the 2008 World Cup, the entire spectator area along the route was optimized using an information system. Boards give viewers an overview of the areas accessible to them. Another swap body was built to better steer the audience. This means that a total of four swap bodies are now distributed across the routes.
In order to make it easier to occupy the individual grandstands of the stadium and the race track during competitions, the spectators for the three grandstands and the track are divided up at the bus parking lot at Grenadier.
At the shooting range with its 30 lanes, the athletes have a distance of 50 meters from the target. The shooting range is equipped with the German electronic system HoRa 2000 E, the most modern and widespread in the World Cup. The hits are triggered by an impulse from a sensor when the projectile hits the ground, in contrast to the Kurvinen type folding disks from Finland, which are still used in some cases in the World Cup. Then a white disc is pushed in front of the black disc as a hit indicator. A sliding panel changes the size of the five-hit areas per lane from 115 millimeters for the standing stop to 45 millimeters for the horizontal stop.
The shooting range is protected at the back and sides by earth security walls. It is also equipped with transverse blinds over the lanes in order to stop any missed shots going up at an angle. These blinds comply with the German and Thuringian safety requirements. The screens must be present at national events or during training sessions. At the World Championship or a World Cup, the Rennsteig-Arena is subject to the International Biathlon Union (IBU) and its safety requirements. These do not provide glare protection, which is why the bars that obstruct the view are removed at international competitions.
Two video walls will be set up during the competitions so that the spectators in the stadium can follow the action on the courses. To further improve the visibility, one of the two 24 square meter video walls was replaced by a 40 square meter one for the 2006 World Cup. A third video wall is located outside the stadium on Bird Steig. A fourth video wall was built in front of the forest stand for the 2008 World Cup. For competitions, snack and supply stands will be set up at the entrances to the arena.
In bad snow conditions, if it is cold enough, the interior of the stadium and the tracks can be covered with snow cannons. If it is too warm for artificial snow-making, an attempt is made to access snow depots that were filled with the first snow of winter in certain shady places, such as in Kanzlers Ground or on the Schneekopf located five kilometers south of Oberhof. The snow is then transported from these depots to the Rennsteig-Arena by truck. For example, around 200 truckloads of snow were stored in Kanzlers Ground for the 2005 World Cup. This measure made it possible for Oberhof to be the first venue to host a World Cup in the 2000/2001 season with little snow.
Winters of 2006/2007 with little snow presented the organizers of the 2007 World Cup with major problems. Due to the persistently mild weather, no snow depot could be created, and it was too warm for the snow cannons in the run-up to the event. To ensure the World Cup, around 80 truckloads of crash ice, which is actually used to cool fish and which was specially produced for Oberhof in an ice factory in Bremerhaven 550 kilometers away, were brought in from December 20, 2006. About 4,000 cubic meters of coarse-grained snow formed the basis for a shortened, 2.5-kilometer-long runway. In addition, the remaining snow was produced on-site in a special 15 by 30 meter and six-meter high cold tent with nine snow cannons. The cost of this amounted to more than 100,000 euros.
The routes in Oberhof are very difficult. Long descents like the Wolfsschlucht, where high speeds are reached, alternate with long climbs like the Bird Steig. The tracks were widened during the renovation for the 2004 World Cup so that an overtaking maneuver is possible on almost every section of the track. The route network is divided into five sections with different lengths and degrees of difficulty. Route one is the longest at 3999 meters. It covers the entire route network except for the rear part of the sawdust circuit. The other four routes are 3446, 3099, 2595, and 2151 meters long and are at heights between 774 and 839 meters above sea level. The individual routes, all of which are FIS-Certificate can be linked together in different variants. Since 2015 there has been an additional loop in front of the stadium.
The individual route sections have different names such as Wolfsschlucht, Birxsteig, Tambacher Straße, Frankfurter Kreuz, U, Brunnenweg, Kulle curve, and sawdust round, which are used depending on the selected competition route. The sections of the route are selected according to the type of race, the required length, and the gender of the competitors. The nature of the route also influences this selection; for example, the Wolfsschlucht could not be used at the 2007 World Cup due to lack of snow. The Wolfsschluchtis also often left out in relay competitions or in the mass start in the first lap after the start and only approached in the second lap after the first shooting when the field is no longer so close together The sawdust circuit is also divided into two parts and, depending on the length of the route and discipline,it can be used individually as a small or large sawdust circuit.
The World Cups held in Oberhof were often affected by changeable weather: one day of bright sunshine, then a stormy wind that swept the mats at the shooting range through the stadium, then again thick fog, which has already led to the cancellation several times, or heavy snowfall.
Sven Fischer leaves the shooting range, World Cup 2003 In 1984 the first biathlon world cup took place in Oberhof. Thereafter, Oberhof was the organizer of a biathlon World Cup every year in 1985, 1986, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999 to 2003 and since 2005, with the exception of 2016. Since the 2001 World Cup, the event has been run by the “Rennsteig” e. V. aligned. In 2004, the biathlon world championships took place in Oberhof. In 1990, 1993, and 2016 Oberhof was also planned as a World Cup venue, but the competitions had to be abandoned due to bad or too warm weather conditions. They then took place in Walchsee, Ridnaun, and Ruhpolding.
Oberhof has been a member of the ORA Trophy since 1998. It was from the Biathlon places O Berghof, R upholding, and A Holz launched. Additional prize money will be given to the overall winner of the three World Cups. In 2004, despite many protests, the ORA was not held as an additional competition in Oberhof because of the World Cup. Since 2005 this competition has been called Golden Classics.
A night race was held for the first time at the 2006 World Cup in Oberhof. The method from Ruhpolding was used to illuminate the 4.3-kilometer long route: the sections of the route that were not yet equipped with lights were filled with 24 helium balloons with a diameter of two to six meters, which were fixed at a height of ten meters. illuminated. Most of them were located in the area of most of the television cameras on Birxsteig and Frankfurter Kreuz. In addition to the floodlights in the stadium, for the shooting range, penalty loop, and the rest of the route, daylight lamps were used on so-called tree stands.
The number of viewers has risen continuously in recent years. While there were still 52,000 spectators on four days of competition at the 2003 World Cup, this increased in the following years, with five days of competition each. In 2005 there were 85,000, in 2006 93,000, and in 2007 95,000. In 2009 there were 98,000 and in 2010 with 102,000 for the first time over 100,000. That means the previous record for Oberhof World Cups. 100,500 spectators attended the 2012 World Cup. The 2013 World Cup came to 84,000 spectators over four days of the event. The 2014 World Cup, which was reduced to three days of competition, came to 62,500 spectators. At the individual races, there are usually over 20,000 spectators, with the athletes, officials, journalists, and other accredited up to 27,500 people in the stadium and on the track. The races are sold out several months in advance, except for a few remaining tickets that are still available for the track. The 2004 World Championships eclipsed everything. 206,000 spectators came to the ten races on seven days of competition. In addition, another 50,000 attended the evening awards ceremony in the Oberhof spa gardens.
Facts and figures
A sporting event with more than 20,000 people is a great challenge for a town with around 1,600 inhabitants. At the 2006 World Cup, a total of 750 helpers ensured that the competitions ran smoothly. Of these, around 450 were volunteers from 13 Rennsteig winter sports associations. 140 judges, 50 stewards for the competition, and 120 stewards for the parking lots and the stadium were used for the competition. During the competitions, the Grenzadler parking lot was closed to visitors, but around 4,000 parking spaces were made available in Oberhof for around 12,000 spectators. There were also 120 parking spaces for buses that brought around 6,000 guests to Oberhof. The spectators were then with 24 buses in shuttle operation from Friedensplatztransported in Oberhof to the Grenadier and back. In addition, the bus and train connections have been strengthened. 300 helpers were deployed in the logistic area (police, catering, rescue services, and security). Five ambulances were used and 2000 meters of barricade fence installed. 3400 people were accredited, 180 from television, 30 from radio, 85 writing journalists, and 57 photographers.
A total of 202,400 euros in prize money was paid out to the athletes for the 2006 competitions. Of this, EUR 162,400 was prize money from the IBU; 40,000 euros were available for the Golden Classics, 30,000 of which in Oberhof, and 10,000 for the jackpot, which was paid out in Antholz. At the 2007 World Cup, a total of 208,200 euros in prize money was paid out.
From the 2002/2003 season to the 2009/2010 season (canceled in the 2006/2007 season), the running competitions of the Nordic Combined World Cup were also held in the stadium. The Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix also took place here in 2007. Every year, some races of the German Biathlon Championships are held in the Rennsteig-Arena in summer.
In the Nordic Combined, more than 10,000 spectators regularly watched the run. This was the top value of all World Cups.
The opening races of the Tour de Ski (cross-country skiing) were held in the stadium from the 2008/2009 season to the 2013/2014 season.
Since 2006 the cross-country skiing days of the organization Special Olympics Germany take place every year in mid-January . The event is Europe’s largest cross-country skiing event for people with an intellectual disability.