The Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, sometimes known as the City of Manchester Stadium owing to sponsorship reasons, is the home of Premier League team Manchester City F.C., with a domestic football capacity of 53,400, ranking it ninth in the United Kingdom and fifth in the Premier League.
In addition to hosting the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, England football internationals, rugby league games, a boxing world title match, the England rugby union team’s final group-stage match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and summer music festivals during the football off-season, the stadium was constructed to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
The stadium was converted from a 38,000 capacity arena to a 48,000 seat football stadium after the 2002 Commonwealth Games at a cost of £22 million to the city council and £20 million to Manchester City. The stadium was initially proposed as an athletics arena in Manchester’s bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics. City F.C. of Manchester moved from Maine Road to the stadium in the summer of 2003 after agreeing to lease it from Manchester City Council.
The stadium was constructed by Laing Construction for a price of £112 million, and it was designed and engineered by Arup, whose plan included a cable-stayed roof structure that is suspended entirely by twelve exterior masts and attached cables, separate from the main stadium bowl. The stadium’s design has won numerous awards and accolades, including one from the Institution of Structural Engineers in 2003 and one from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2004 for its innovative inclusive building design.
In time for the start of the 2015–16 football season, a 7,000 seat third tier on the South Stand was finished in August 2015. The expansion was planned to complement the style of the existing roof.
History on the Etihad Stadium
Before 1989, Manchester began developing plans for a brand-new stadium as part of its bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics. An 80,000-capacity stadium on a greenfield site west of Manchester’s city center was included in the bid submitted by Manchester City Council. Atlanta hosted the Games after the bid was rejected. Four years later, the city council submitted a bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympics, focusing this time on a brownfield site that was the site of Bradford Colliery, also known as Eastlands, and was located 1.6 kilometers (0.99 mi) east of the city center. Emerging government legislation on urban renewal, which promised crucial support funding for such projects, was the catalyst for the council’s change in direction. In 1992, the government funded the purchase and clearing of the Eastlands site.
The city council submitted a second 80,000-capacity stadium design for the February 1993 bid. This design was created by Arup, the company that assisted in choosing the Eastlands site. Sydney won the bid on September 23, 1993, but the following year Manchester submitted the same plan to the Millennium Commission as a “Millennium Stadium” proposal, only to have it rejected. Undeterred, Manchester City Council later submitted a bid to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and this time they were successful. They once again suggested the same site and used scaled-down stadium plans from the 2000 Olympics bid. The same proposed stadium faced off against Wembley Stadium for funding to become the new national stadium in 1996, but Wembley received the funds instead, allowing for its redevelopment.
Athletics leaders like Sebastian Coe and Jonathan Edwards criticized the conversion of the Commonwealth Games stadium into a football stadium after the successful athletics competitions there because the UK still lacked plans for a significant athletics venue at the time because the ability to install an athletics track had been removed from the plans for a rebuilt Wembley Stadium. Manchester would have had access to a venue that could be modified to host sizable athletics events through the use of movable seating had either of the two larger stadium proposals developed by Arup been approved for funding.
Sport England insisted that the City Council agree to carry out and finance extensive work to convert CoMS from a track and field arena to a football stadium, ensuring its long-term financial viability. Sport England wished to avoid building a “white elephant.” The additional £50 million needed to turn the stadium into a 65,000-seater athletics and football venue with movable seating was hoped to be raised by either Manchester City Council or Manchester City F.C. However, the Manchester City Council lacked the funds to make it possible, and Manchester City had mixed feelings about the concept. Stadio delle Alpi and the Olympic Stadium, where Juventus and Bayern Munich moved to new stadiums less than 40 years after inheriting them, are examples of how maintaining a rarely used athletics track frequently does not work with football, according to stadium architects Arup.
Commonwealth Games of 2002
Tony Blair, the prime minister, laid the stadium’s cornerstone in December 1999, and work on it officially started in January 2000. With funding from Manchester City Council and Sport England totaling about £112 million, Arup designed the stadium, which Laing Construction built at a cost of about £77 million. The stadium’s seating capacity for the Commonwealth Games was initially set at 38,000 but was later increased to 41,000 thanks to the installation of additional temporary trackside seating along the east and south stands. The stadium featured a single lower tier of seating encircling three sides of the athletics track, second tiers to the two sides, and an open-air temporary stand at the northern end.
The 2002 Commonwealth Games’ opening ceremony on July 25, 2002, was the stadium’s first public event. Among the dignitaries present was Queen Elizabeth II, who gave a speech and “declared the Commonwealth Games open” using an electronic baton. The stadium served as the venue for all of the rugby sevens games and the track and field competitions over the course of the next ten days of competition. In the stadium, sixteen new Commonwealth Games track and field records were established (six for men and ten for women). The 2002 Games were the biggest multi-sport competition ever held in the United Kingdom, surpassing the London 1948 Summer Olympics in terms of teams and athletes competing (3,679). It was also the first multi-sport competition in history to include a small number of full medal events for elite athletes with disabilities. The 2012 Summer Olympics were held in London (EAD). It is still the largest Commonwealth Games ever in terms of the number of participating countries, with 72 countries competing in 281 events across 17 (fourteen individual and three team) sports.
Conversion of the Stadium
The internal ground level was lowered to make room for an additional tier of seating, on terracing already constructed and buried for the original configuration, and portions of the track were removed and relaid at other athletics facilities. A permanent building with a similar design to the one already there at the southern end was erected to replace the three temporary stands, which had a combined seating capacity of 16,000, which were demolished. The capacity of the stadium that was converted increased by 7,000, to roughly 48,000, after this work, which took almost a year to complete, added 23,000 permanent seats. Manchester City F.C. relocated to the new location in time for the 2003–04 season to begin. The installation of bars, restaurants, and corporate entertainment areas throughout the stadium was paid for by the football club at a cost of £20 million, while the track, pitch, and seating conversion were funded by the city council at a cost of £22 million. The total cost of this conversion exceeded £40 million. Sport England agreed that the Games’ modest operating profit could be used to invest £3.5 million in building the 6,000-seat Manchester Regional Arena on the athletics warm-up track next to the main stadium.
Expansion of the Stadium
The football club is leasing the stadium from Manchester City Council on a “fully repairing” basis. The club is responsible for paying all current and future capital expenses, and as a result, they also receive all stadium-related revenue. It was suggested that the football team might think about purchasing the stadium outright after the 2008 takeover made it one of the richest in the world. In order to permit a $1 billion redevelopment under the direction of architect Rafael Violy, Manchester City and Manchester City Council signed a contract in March 2010.
The football field and the hospitality areas underwent renovations in 2010 during the off-season. A £1 million investment was made in the playing surface to make it more resilient to concerts and other events without suffering damage. Manchester City renegotiated the terms of the stadium lease in October 2010, gaining the naming rights in exchange for agreeing to pay the City Council an annual fixed sum of £3 million as opposed to only half of the ticket sales revenue from games with attendances above 35,000. This new agreement, which was reached as part of the initial lease’s standard five-year review, will increase the council’s annual stadium revenue by about £1 million. The club sold all 36,000 of its allotted season tickets during 2011–14, and the average match attendance during that time period was very close to its maximum seating capacity (see table in subsequent section). As a result, the stadium underwent an expansion during the 2014–15 season. With the extension of the South Stand and the addition of a third tier, along with an additional three rows of pitch side seating, the stadium’s capacity was raised to about 55,000. The South Stand’s construction began in April 2014 and was finished in time for the 2015–16 season.
A third tier of seats would have been added to the North Stand in the final phase of expansion, which was never scheduled but received planning approval at the same time as the other phases. Season ticket holders were consulted by the club in November 2018 about potential alternate arrangements for this expansion, including ideas for a larger, two-tiered North Stand without executive boxes or corporate hospitality lounges and perhaps with spaces that could be used for safe standing. The premium seating would then be rearranged along the entire length of the second tiers in the East and West stands, along with new hospitality bar areas. Depending on the preferred design option, the stadium’s final phase could increase seating capacity to about 63,000, making Etihad Stadium the third-largest club ground in the country. Although slightly inferior to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Old Trafford and (potentially) the London Stadium rank higher.
Other Uses of the Stadium
According to the lease’s terms, Manchester City is free to use the stadium for non-football events like concerts, boxing matches, and rugby games. To increase the variety of non-football-related events held at the stadium, Manchester City submitted an application for a permanent entertainment license in 2012.
The stadium, which has a maximum seating capacity of 60,000 for performances, hosts annual summer concerts outside of football season and is one of the biggest music venues in the United Kingdom. Prior to the construction of the new Wembley Stadium, it served as England’s largest stadium concert venue. The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave the opening performance, backed by James Brown, in 2004.
The band’s concert in 2005 broke the previous attendance record with 60,000 people in attendance, and it was captured on the DVD Lord Don’t Slow Me Down. Take That: The Ultimate Tour, a DVD of their concert at the stadium in 2006, was made available. U2, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Foo Fighters, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Bastille, Dizzee Rascal, The Futureheads, the Sugababes, Taylor Swift, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Muse, Bon Jovi (twice), Robbie Williams, One Direction, The Stone Roses, and the Spice Girls are some other performers who have performed at the stadium.
Eventually, boxing matches and concerts left their mark on the field. Due to a late post-concert pitch renovation and an early start to the football season in 2008, the pitch was not ready for the first home game. As a result, the club was forced to play its UEFA Cup first round qualifying match at Barnsley’s Oakwell Stadium, and a moratorium was placed on holding non-football events at Eastlands. The club invested in a new pitch in May 2010, and summer concerts resumed in 2011 when Take That performed for eight nights with roughly 400,000 tickets sold.
Other football events
In addition to Manchester City’s home games, CoMS has hosted a number of important football matches and is classified as a category 4 stadium by UEFA. When the English and Japanese national teams squared off on June 1, 2004, it became the fiftieth stadium to host an England international football game. The stadium hosted England’s opening match in the UEFA Women’s Championship in June 2005, breaking the competition’s attendance record with 29,092 spectators. The stadium also hosted the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, in which Zenit Saint Petersburg defeated Rangers 2–0.
The stadium played host to the Conference National play-off final between AFC Wimbledon and Luton Town in May 2011. Wimbledon won after a shootout and was thus promoted to the Football League. The 2011 UEFA Champions League Final was scheduled to take place at Wembley on May 28, 2011, and per UEFA rules, no other matches were allowed to be played there for the preceding two weeks. As a result, the stadium was used for the play-offs.
In front of close to 40,000 spectators, the stadium hosted a rugby league international game in the Tri-Nations series between Great Britain and Australia in October 2004. The Magic Weekend was held in the stadium for three straight years, from 2012 to 2014. After setting records for attendance on a single day (32,953) and for the entire weekend (63,716) in 2012, the Etihad Stadium was chosen as the location for this yearly rugby league event. In May 2014, it set yet another record for attendance (36,339/64,552). However, due to construction associated with the South Stand’s expansion, it was moved to St. James’ Park in Newcastle for the 2015 summer season.
Ricky Hatton, a boxer from Stockport who has won the IBF and IBO light welterweight titles twice, defeated Juan Lazcano on May 24, 2008, in a fight dubbed “Hatton’s Homecoming.” A record-breaking 56,337 spectators watched the fight, which was held in front of a boxing match in Britain after World War II.
The stadium served as the site of a 2015 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between hosts England and Uruguay on October 10, 2015. Attended by 50,778, England won 60-3.
How to Get to Etihad Stadium
Arriving from City Center to Etihad Stadium
The quickest way to get to the stadium from the city center is by using Metrolink, which stops at the venue. The city center is also walkable to Etihad Stadium. From Manchester Piccadilly station, a 30-minute walking route is available that is well-lit and clearly marked. For more information, please refer to the section on public transportation.
Arriving to Etihad Stadium with Public Transportation
Ashburys station [ABY]: The station is 15 minutes’ walk from the ground at Pottery Lane in Manchester, M12 5BY.
Manchester Piccadilly station [MAN]: The station is 35 minutes’ walk from the ground at London Road, Manchester M60 7RA.
Etihad Campus, a two-minute walk from the East Manchester line.
Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Piccadilly both have train service; the former’s trip takes about 10 minutes. The stops on either side of Etihad Campus, Holt Town and Velopark, should be noted as being out of service for at least an hour following events.
Tickets must be bought in advance, and machines are available on each platform. On Metrolink, alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited.
Etihad Stadium is serviced by Routes 53, 188, 216, 217, and 231, some from the city center and others from the neighborhood. Additionally, Stagecoach Manchester runs regular buses that are priced at £1.80 for adults and £0.90 for children each way between Piccadilly and the stadium as part of their match special service.
Arriving by Car at Etihad Stadium
Click here to view Etihad Stadium on Google Maps.
The following major roads provide access to the stadium:
- From North: A6010, M60; passing Oldham and Bury
- From South: M6, M56, M60; passing Knutsford and Stockport
- From East: M62, A628, passing Huddersfield and the Peak District
- From West: M62, passing Warrington and Sale
From City Centre
East of Manchester City Center, on either the A635 or A62, is where you’ll find Etihad Stadium. These roads are connected by the A665, which runs from north to south. Pollard Street and Merrill Street, which merge into Ashton New Road, can also be used to get to the stadium.