Katie Hamer continues her alphabetical adventure through the landmarks of Cardiff! Today she’s reached M … and heading to the Millennium Stadium…
The Millennium Stadium has to be the most iconic landmark in Cardiff. Its eye-catching structure is one of the first things visitors encounter after leaving the Central Station. The city centre positioning is exactly the reason why it’s so special as it places it within the beating heart of the city. It lends to it a vibrancy and liveliness that is harder to create in a stadium on the outskirts of a town or city.
It’s strange to think that I’ve passed this Stadium nearly every time I visit Cardiff on the train and yet I’d never been inside it. Clearly, this didn’t put me in the best position to talk about the Stadium experience, did it? And I wondered what I could do about that. By searching the web I soon realised that I could sign up for a guided tour of the Stadium and buy tickets online, so that’s exactly what I did. This is what I discovered from my visit:
First, I’ll give you a few facts about how the Stadium came to be built. The Millennium Stadium, home of the Wales National Rugby Union team, was built in order to showcase the best that Wales could offer in the run-up to the country hosting the 1999 Rugby World Cup. When it opened its gates to the public for the first time in June of the same year it could boast a full capacity crowd of 74,500 which makes it the third largest Six Nations Championship Stadium to this day. It also stands out for its amazing fully retractable roof, as there is only one larger stadium in the world to have this feature.
All in all, the Stadium has to be one of the best features in Cardiff for getting a photographer’s ‘trigger finger’ fidgety. It’s photogenic from so many different angles. I felt wowed by the potential of visiting such an eye-catching landmark, so unsurprisingly the first question I asked upon joining my tour group was, “Can I take photos?” To my great relief, Pete the tour guide informed me that absolutely, I could take photos and there were no restrictions on what I took. Phew! That was good to hear!
Pete guided my group of intrepid explorers on a tour of the whole building, taking in the press conference suite, the changing rooms for both the home and away teams, the prestigious boxes and of course the Stadium itself. Along the way we were allowed to take our time to relish the memorabilia that they keep in glass display cabinets and which also decorate the walls.
At one point, when we were about to go through double doors which are the player’s entrance onto the pitch, Pete told us all of an experience he’d recently had, and of which he was most proud. He’d told us that he’d met many famous people while working at the Stadium, but the guest he met on Saturday surpassed them all.
While the crowds within the Stadium were waiting in anticipation to see the home team play New Zealand’s All Blacks, he got a chance to speak with a world-famous celebrity, the ‘Hoff, no less. From what I recall, he told me he got a genuinely warm response along the lines of “Hey Buddy”. Oh, to be a fly on the wall on that occasion.
We then entered the Stadium through that most lauded entrance. As I did so, I could imagine the sense of anticipation that the players must feel, the sense that anything is possible, that victory could be within their grasp. I imagined the roar of the crowds on all four sides of the Stadium as the teams finally made it on to the pitch.
During the tour, we visited the Stadium at various different levels, drinking in the atmosphere each time. Pete the tour guide was very congenial and made every effort to make the tour memorable by offering to take photos for us. I’m very pleased with the photos that he took for me from one of the seating areas high up from the pitch. He’s clearly had a lot of practice.
We finished up the tour gazing at a Rugby cup, which was perched on a stand near the top of the Stadium, which was emblazoned with ribbons, but sadly was not a Six Nations Cup. The whole tour party sat in seats over-looking the cup and out towards the pitch, admiring the way it is carefully preserved with sprinkler systems and sun lamps between matches, especially in the winter when there’s not much chance for natural daylight to filter into the grounds.
Looking out at the Stadium I got a real sense of how great the atmosphere would be when there’s an important match, or when the place is full of music fans dancing along to one of their favourite bands. I could imagine how the crowd would react to seeing headliner acts such as Madonna, Take That and Bruce Springsteen performing here. I read somewhere that the Manic Street Preachers were the first band to play at the Stadium, on New Year’s Eve 1999. Now, that’s one concert I wish I could have been at. Perhaps I should see if Doctor Who’s time machine in Cardiff Bay could take me back there!
You can find out more information about Millennium Stadium tours and events here:
Once again, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy spending a few minutes looking through my photo gallery.
Thanks Katie! More Cardiff A-Z very soon…
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