Freiburg opens Europa-Park Stadion

German Bundesliga football club SC Freiburg has played its first game in its new stadium, a test match against 2. Bundesliga outfit St. Pauli that served to uncover some teething issues to resolve ahead of its full debut later this month.

The match, which Freiburg won 3-0, was played in front of a restricted crowd of 15,000 yesterday (Thursday) at the 34,700-seat Europa-Park Stadion. Issues encountered included one instance of floodlight failure, albeit for little over a minute.

The pitch was also found to be of insufficient standard and will be replaced at short notice as Europa-Park Stadion prepares to stage its first competitive game, a Bundesliga match against RB Leipzig on October 16, when 20,000 fans are expected to be permitted to attend under current COVID-19 rules.

German football website Kicker also reported that mobile internet reception at yesterday’s game was also severely restricted, despite the limited attendance. Nevertheless, Oliver Leki, CEO of SC Freiburg, hailed the inauguration of the stadium as a key moment in the club’s history, having overcome numerous obstacles to get to this point.

Citing the “lighthouse project that will shine far beyond the city limits,” Leki recalled more than 10 difficult years, the preliminary review of 25 locations in 2013 and the referendum that was won two years later. A defeat at that time would have blocked a long-term future in professional football for Freiburg, so the “basis for the coming decades has been laid,” added Leki.

At the end of August, Freiburg announced that the Europa-Park amusement park had acquired naming rights to the new stadium. Terms of the deal for the Europa-Park Stadion were not disclosed, with the contract being described as a long-term agreement.

Freiburg confirmed earlier in August that the club would play its first three Bundesliga home games of the 2021-22 season in the Dreisamstadion amid delays in delivering its new home. Freiburg in May said it was hoping to move into its new stadium in time for the 2021-22 season but admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed back the delivery date.

Freiburg has played at the 24,000-seat Dreisamstadion since 1954 and had originally hoped to move to its new ground during the 2020-21 season, but this was not possible.

Image: SC Freiburg/Achim Keller