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The City of Manchester Stadium, also known as COMS or Eastlands, is a stadium in Manchester, England. Originally designed as part of Manchester's failed bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, the stadium was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games at a cost of £110 million. After the Games, it was converted for use as a football ground and became the home of Manchester City F.C., which moved there from Maine Road in 2003 after signing a 250-year lease.
The stadium is bowl-shaped, with two tiers all the way around the ground and a third tier along the two side stands. As of 1 July 2009, it is the fourth-largest stadium in the FA Premier League and the 12th-largest in the United Kingdom, with a seating capacity of 47,726. On 14 May 2008, it hosted the UEFA Cup Final.
Location Sportcity, Rowsley St, Manchester M11 3FF
Broke ground 1999
Opened 25 July, 2002 (Athletics) / 10 August, 2003 (Football)
Owner Manchester City Council
Operator Manchester City F.C.
Construction cost £110 million
Architect Arup Associates
Field dimensions 105 by 68 metres (340 ft × 220 ft)
Plans to build a stadium in east Manchester were formulated around 1990 as part of the city's bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympics; Manchester City Councilvcommissioned a design for an 80,000 capacity stadium on a brownfield site known colloquially as Eastlands. However, in October 1993 the games were awarded to Sydney, Australia. Manchester subsequently made a successful bid to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, using the stadium plans from the Olympic bid. In 1996, the planned stadium competed with Wembley Stadium to gain funding to become the national stadium, but the money was used to redevelop Wembley. The stadium's foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in December 1999, and construction began in January 2000. The stadium was designed by Arup and constructed by John Laing at a cost of approximately £110 million, £77 million of which was provided by Sport England, with the remainder funded by Manchester City Council. For the Commonwealth Games, the stadium featured a single lower tier running around three sides of the athletics track, and second tiers to the two sides, with an open-air temporary stand at one end. The first public event at the stadium was the opening ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games on 25 July 2002. Among the dignitaries present at the ceremony was Queen Elizabeth II. During the ten days of competition, the stadium hosted all athletics events and the rugby sevens. Four Commonwealth records were set at the stadium, including the women's triple jump and the women's 5000 m.
After the Commonwealth Games, extensive work was carried out on the stadium to convert it for use as a football stadium. Following the success of athletics events at the Commonwealth Games, the decision to convert the stadium into a football venue received criticism from athletics figures such as Jonathan Edwards and Sebastian Coe, but redevelopment was deemed necessary to give the venue a financially viable long-term future. Sections of the track were removed and relaid at other athletics venues, and the ground level was lowered to make way for an additional tier of seating. The temporary stand was dismantled, and replaced with a permanent structure of similar design the existing one at the southern end. This extensive work took a year and added 12,000 seats. Manchester City F.C. moved to the new ground for the 2003–04 season. The conversion cost in excess of £30 million, funded by the football club.
The first public football match at the stadium was a friendly between Manchester City and Barcelona on 10 August 2003. Manchester City won the game 2–1, with the first goal at the stadium scored by Nicolas Anelka. The first competitive match followed four days later, a UEFA Cup contest between Manchester City and Welsh Premier League side TNS, which City won 5–0. The record football attendance at the stadium is 47,339, which was set at a Premier League game against Arsenal on 12 September 2009.
The stadium has also hosted several other sporting events. It became the 50th stadium to host an England international football match when the English and Japanese national teams played on 1 June 2004, and on 30 October of that year it played host to a rugby league match between Great Britain and Australia in the Tri-Nations series. In June 2005 the stadium hosted England's opening game in the UEFA Women's Championship, setting an attendance record for the competition. It is rated as a elite stadium by UEFA, and it hosted the 2008 UEFA Cup Final between Rangers and Zenit St Petersburg.
The stadium has a number of unofficial alternative names. Eastlands was used before the stadium was officially named and is still in common use, and City of Manchester Stadium is sometimes abbreviated to COMS when written. The Blue Camp, a pun on Barcelona's Nou Camp, found little favour. After the club was taken over by the Emirati Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008 some supporters jokingly referred to the stadium as Middle Eastlands. The stadium has generally received positive feedback from fans, coming second behind Old Trafford in a 2005 poll to find the United Kingdom's favourite football ground.
The stadium is currently owned by Manchester City Council and is leased by the football club. The 2008 takeover made the football club the richest in the world, prompting suggestions that the club could consider buying the stadium outright.
Structure and facilities
The interior of the City of Manchester Stadium is a continuous oval bowl, with three tiers of seating at the sides, and two tiers at each end. While the seating is continuous, each side of the stadium has its own name in the manner of a traditional football ground. Initially, all sides of the stadium were named by compass direction (North Stand and South Stand for the ends, East Stand and West Stand for the sides). In February 2004 the West Stand was renamed the Colin Bell Stand in honour of the former player. The South Stand was officially named the Key 103 Stand for sponsorship reasons from 2003 to 2006, though this designation was largely ignored by supporters. A portion of the North Stand is designated the Family Stand, and is reserved for supporters with children. The East Stand is unofficially known to fans as the Kippax after the corresponding stand at Maine Road. Supporters of visiting teams are allocated part of the South Stand. There are 68 executive boxes within the stadium, located along the West, North and East Stands.
The stadium roof is toroidal in shape, and is suspended from steel cables attached to eight towers, which provide access to the upper tiers of seating via spiral ramps. The areas without seating in each corner have moveable louvres to allow for the ventilation of the pitch. Entry is gained by contactless smart card rather than the traditional manned turnstile. This system can admit up to 1,200 people per minute around all entrances. A service tunnel running under the stadium provides access for emergency vehicles, and allows the visiting team's coach to enter the stadium directly. Inside the stadium are six themed restaurants, two of which have views of the pitch, and a number of conference facilities. The stadium is also licensed for marriage ceremonies.
The City of Manchester Stadium has a UEFA standard dimension pitch, 105 by 68 metres (340 ft × 220 ft), and features a natural grass pitch reinforced with artificial grass fibres made by Desso. There are 218 floodlights in the stadium each using 2000 watts. In total they consume 436,000 watts when they are all on.
The stadium is the centrepiece of an area known as Sportcity, which also includes several other sporting venues. Adjacent to the stadium is the Manchester Regional Arena, which served as a warm-up track during the Commonwealth Games, and is now a 6,178 capacity venue that hosts national athletics trials and Manchester City reserve team games. The Manchester Velodrome and the National Squash Centre are a short distance from the stadium. In September 2006, Manchester City received planning permission to build an 85-metre (280 ft) wind turbine at the stadium. Designed by Norman Foster, the turbine was intended to provide power for the stadium and nearby homes, but safety concerns about ice on the blades led to the proposal being dropped. From 2005 to 2009 a Thomas Heatherwick sculpture, B of the Bang, was present in front of the stadium. Built to commemorate the success of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, it was the tallest sculpture in the UK. However, structural problems lead to the sculpture being dismantled in 2009.
The City of Manchester Stadium has won a number of design awards, including the 2004 Royal Institute of British Architects Inclusive Design Award for inclusive building design, and the 2003 Institution of Structural Engineers Structural Special Award.
On 30 January 2007 it was announced that the UK's first Super Casino would be built in the Sportcity area close to the stadium; plans for this have since been abandoned, after it failed to receive authorisation from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
The City of Manchester Stadium is located to the east of Manchester city centre. The stadium site itself has 2,000 parking spaces, with another 8,000 spaces in the surrounding area provided by local businesses and schools working in partnership with the football club. The nearest railway station is Ashburys, a 20-minute walk south of the stadium, though services are limited due to the small size of the station. Manchester Piccadilly, which serves mainline trains from London, Birmingham and Edinburgh, is a 30-minute signposted walk away. Several special bus services serve the stadium when events take place.
An extension to the Metrolink tram system with a stop at the stadium was announced in 2000, but following a government spending review the plan was put on hold in July 2004. However, in July 2006 funding for the extension was reinstated, but for a shorter length; a Sportcity Metrolink station will open in 2012.
Outside the football season the stadium hosts occasional concerts, and is one of the UK's largest music venues, having a maximum capacity of 60,000 for performances. The first concert at the venue was a performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2004. Local band and vocal Manchester City supporters Oasis have played concerts at the stadium, one of which was featured on their DVD Lord Don't Slow Me Down. Another Manchester act, Take That, also released a DVD of their performance at the stadium, Take That: The Ultimate Tour. Other artists who have played the stadium are U2, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Foo Fighters and Bon Jovi.
Summer activities such as concerts and boxing matches often take a toll on the pitch. In 2008, end of season renovation, coupled with an early start to the football season, meant the pitch was not ready in time for the first home fixture. As a result, Manchester City played their UEFA Cup first round qualifying match at Barnsley's Oakwell Stadium.