The Merkur Spiel-Arena (spelling: MERKUR SPIEL-ARENA ) is a football stadium with a closable roof in the Stockum district of the North Rhine-Westphalian state capital Düsseldorf . The football club Fortuna Düsseldorf welcomes its opponents to home games here. With over 54,600 spectator seats at national football matches, the Merkur Spiel-Arena is the third largest football stadium in the state and the eighth largest in Germany . During Fortuna Düsseldorf league games, however, the stadium only holds around 52,000 people due to the safety precautions around the away block inside the stadium.
The stadium also hosts concerts, shows and other sporting events. The visitor capacity varies depending on the type of event and stage structure and can be expanded to up to 66,500 spectators for concerts.
The structure was built between 2002 and 2004 in place of the previously existing Rheinstadion , but was moved slightly to the north. The stadium with a lockable roof has 54,600 seats. For concerts in which the interior can also be used, the capacity is up to 66,000 spectators, depending on the arrangement of the stage. The stadium heating is a special feature . With air heating, gas emitters and underfloor heating, the interior is heated to at least 15 ° C in winter.
Until June 30, 2009, the namesake and sponsor of the arena was the charter airline LTU, which had been based at Düsseldorf Airport since 1961 and then merged with Air Berlin . The contract between the arena operators and the holiday airline was signed on September 22nd, 2004. Since the LTU brand was abandoned in favor of a uniform market presence for the aviation group Air Berlin, the term of the contract was shortened by mutual agreement.
From July 1, 2009 to August 2, 2018, the stadium was called ESPRIT arena. The namesake and sponsor of the Arena – the Esprit Group – has its European headquarters in neighboring Ratingen . In 2013 Esprit wanted to get out of the current contract early. However, the Düsseldorf Regional Court ruled on March 7, 2014 that the termination was ineffective and that Esprit would have to remain a name sponsor until the end of the 2019 contract term if no new sponsor was found.
The home team is the Fortuna Düsseldorf football club. The American Football Club Rhein Fire also held this position until 2007 . In the second half of the Bundesliga season 2008/09 also contributed Bayer 04 Leverkusen their home games in the multi-purpose arena, because their own stadium – the BayArena – was rebuilt at this time.
In addition to being used as an event location, the complex is home to the sports department and the city sports association of the city of Düsseldorf. There are also additional offices and a 3-star hotel from the Tulip Inn brand , which opened in January 2007
Location and surroundings
The arena is located in the Stockum district , in the northern part of the Düsseldorf city area. To the south and east is the area of the Düsseldorf trade fair . The Rhine is on the western side . To the west and north are the sports facilities of the Sportpark Nord, which is part of the multifunctional arena. The international airport (DUS) of the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia is also nearby .
Planning and construction
The construction was decided at the end of 2001 by the Düsseldorf city council at the instigation of the Düsseldorf CDU under the leadership of the Lord Mayor Joachim Erwin . The multifunctional arena was originally also intended to host World Cup games of the 2006 soccer World Cup and is intended for the 2012 Olympic Games. When awarding the World Cup venues, however, Düsseldorf was not taken into account, and the application for the Olympic Games failed in the German preselection.
The decision to build a new stadium led to criticism. It was criticized that no economic use was foreseeable, since Fortuna Düsseldorf, as the best-ranked soccer team in the city, only played fourth class (upper league) at the time of construction and the arena was therefore initially out of the question as a soccer venue. In addition, suitable parking spaces for television cameras during television broadcasts were forgotten during the construction. There was no standing room during construction. However, these were later set up on the initiative of Fortuna Düsseldorf fans and can be converted into seats if necessary. The Rhein Fire football team was thus the only professional sports team that should play its five home games per season in the arena. Due to the large number of similar arenas in the Rhine-Ruhr region, it was also doubted that it would be possible to get a larger number of stadium-filling concerts to Düsseldorf. Even for the theoretically possible use as exhibition space for trade fair events, there were initially no practical applications.
The high costs of construction and operation were also criticized. Of the 218 million euros in construction costs, around 80 million were made available from public funds. A holding company and an operating company were established. The holding company leased the arena to the operating company, which is responsible for the operation and the events.
The construction work was carried out by Walter Bau AG from Augsburg . The operating company was also run by the company. ABB and the city of Düsseldorf are also involved . Walter Bau AG, however, went bankrupt in February 2005. The Krefeld entrepreneur Gerald Wagener became the majority owner of the operating company . The CDU parliamentary group in the city council decided against the coalition partner FDP in mid-2005an increase in the city’s stake in the holding company from 60% to 100%. This initially led to a break in the coalition. As the sole shareholder, the city then terminated the lease with the operating company, in which it itself holds minority shares. The operating company had previously commissioned an audit, during which irregularities in the accounting were found. Since September 2005 the stadium has been operated by Düsseldorf Congress Sport & Event GmbH .
Game of Fortuna Dusseldorf , 2005
In the 2004/05 season, regional division Fortuna Düsseldorf played a total of four games in the arena. As a “pre-opening”, the first soccer game took place on September 10, 2004 in the venue, which at that time was still known as the multifunctional arena in Düsseldorf . Fortuna Düsseldorf defeated 1. FC Union Berlin 2-0 in front of the largest number of spectators for Regionalliga Nord (38,123) . The official inauguration as a sports facility took place on January 18, 2005, with a game in front of 44,583 spectators, which Fortuna Düsseldorf lost 5-1 to FC Bayern Munich .
On February 9, 2005, the multifunctional arena was the venue for the international soccer match between Germany and Argentina (2: 2) in front of sold-out spectators. In the other regional league games of Fortuna against Wuppertaler SV Borussia and VfL Osnabrück, the number of spectators was around 15,000 and 10,000 respectively. In the 3-0 win against FC St. Pauli20,865 spectators were in the arena. In the new 3rd division (2008/09 season) there were even 27,375 spectators in the 0-1 home defeat against 1. FC Union Berlin. Fortuna Düsseldorf has played most of its home games in the arena since the 2005/06 season. On the last day of the 2008/09 season it was sold out for the first time with 50,095 spectators, which is also the highest number of spectators in the 3rd division to date. With a win against Werder Bremen II Fortuna Düsseldorf was promoted to the 2nd Bundesliga .
The German Bundesliga club Bayer 04 Leverkusen played their home games here for the entire second half of the 2008/09 season due to the expansion of the BayArena . Clashes with the actual main user Fortuna Düsseldorf could be avoided. In the fan area for Fortuna fans and in the fan area for guest fans, a total of 10,000 standing places were set up during the 2010 summer break. This met a longstanding demand made by many football fans.
The KFC Uerdingen 05 wore its home games since the season 2019/20 in the Düsseldorf Arena, since the Grotenburg Stadium is being renovated. It should be available again in summer 2020. After delays in the renovation of the Grotenburg , the KFC also started in the Düsseldorf Arena in the 2020/21 season. The club had not paid the rent for the umpteenth time, forbade DLive in January 2021 to host another home game. The KFC Uerdingen rented from now on in the stadium at Lotter Kreuz in Lotte .
In August 2020, the Düsseldorf stadium was one of four venues for the final tournament of the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League , with a quarter-final and a semi-final.
The Rhein Fire American football team existed in Düsseldorf between 1995 and 2007 . Until its demolition in 2002, it played its home games of the NFL Europe in the Rheinstadion. During the construction work for the new multifunctional arena, the team moved to the Gelsenkirchen Arena AufSchalke . After completion at the end of 2004, the arena was once again home to Rhein Fire for the 2005, 2006 and 2007 seasons. With the league final World Bowl on June 11, 2005 and May 27, 2006, two highlights of this sport took place at European level in Düsseldorf.
With the termination of the financial support of the league, which had meanwhile been renamed NFL Europe , by the clubs of the American NFL , the league operations were discontinued in 2007. As a result, the Düsseldorf team, which recently had its offices in the arena, was also dissolved.
Only in April 2010 was another football game played in the ESPRIT arena. To that which entered German national team under the German Japan Bowl I against the Japanese team on.
During the planning, special emphasis was placed on multifunctionality. The arena, for example, has a roof that can be closed and a heating system that enables an indoor temperature of at least 15 ° C even when the outside temperature is as low as −5 ° C. A direct connection to the RheinHalle (exhibition hall 6) enables the interior to be used as additional exhibition space for trade fairs. The facade made of aluminum tubes enables videos to be projected onto the outer shell. An underground car park with 1150 parking spaces and 7000 m² of office space are integrated directly into the building. A hotel of the Tulip chain with 288 rooms and a 2150 m² fitness area was opened in January 2007.
The stadium was opened as the LTU arena on January 7th and 8th, 2005 with two concerts by Herbert Grönemeyer . As part of World Youth Day 2005 , one of three opening services took place on August 16 in front of 60,000 pilgrims with Karl Cardinal Lehmann . The Düsseldorf punk rock group Die Toten Hosen played the final concert of the Friss oder dies Tour in front of over 50,000 visitors. Concerts by Phil Collins and Marius Müller-Westernhagen followed . 2006 concerts by Depeche Mode , Madonna and Bon Jovi took place; Two concerts by Genesis followed in 2007and the Rolling Stones . In 2008 Bruce Springsteen and Linkin Park played and the TV total Stock Car Crash Challenge took place. The New Apostolic Church celebrated its European Youth Day from May 22nd to 24th, 2009 with 35,000 visitors .
From 2007 to 2010 the sensation took place in the hall . In 2010 and 2011 the Race of Champions was held in the ESPRIT arena. For these events, a race track was created inside the arena.
Roger Waters performed the rock show The Wall Live (2010-13) in 2011 and 2013 in front of 35,000 spectators.
The second DEL Winter Game took place in January 2015 . Due to heavy rainfall and squalls, the match could not be held in the open air and took place with the roof closed in front of 51,125 spectators. This meant a new record attendance for a club-based ice hockey game in Europe.
An International Youth Day of the New Apostolic Church took place from May 30 to June 2, 2019.
The winter sports event ARAG BIG AIR Freestyle Festival in the arena was planned for January 3rd and 4th, 2020. The appointment for 2020 was canceled due to an overlap with Fortuna.