London Stadium is one of the crown jewels of the Premier League, combining the history of West Ham United FC and the modern matchday experience. Any visit is going to be a memorable one, and that goes far beyond the outcome on the pitch (but a victory by the home team certainly helps).
In terms of moving on up, West Ham found itself in a position in the 2010s where it was hard to say no. Boleyn Ground was its cherished home for a century, but with a fancy new stadium that was built for the Olympics just ready to be scooped up, it really was a no-brainer. The courtship went hot and cold for a bit before the Olympics actually began, which just made it all the sweeter when it was finally confirmed.
It is absolutely easy to make a day out of visiting all of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, but even if you wanted to rush in and out it’s easy to get there from anywhere in London thanks to a variety of underground and overground rail services. It’s the sort of place where you would think nothing of coming in for the match, popping into some pubs along High Street in Stratford, and then having some fun with some cheeky London models or escorts a bit later if that’s what tickles your fancy.
Goodbye, Boleyn Ground
As far as old fashioned pitches go, it was hard to beat Upton Park. Unfortunately, it was hard to improve the stadium over the years. As the decades passed, its capacity was significantly smaller than other London teams. It wasn’t necessarily the place of luck, either, because during the Second World War it was damaged in a bombing of London, and during the club’s time playing at other fields while it was repaired, they went on a 9-0 run. When they returned to Boleyn they promptly lost to Tottenham.
Improvements didn’t come until the Taylor Report, which insisted that all English Football clubs move to all-seater stadiums, and throughout the nineties, different sections of the stadium were demolished and rebuilt.
The final match at Upton Park was a good one, with West Ham coming out ahead over Manchester United 3-2 with a score by Winston Reid in the 80th minute. While there was a celebration on the pitch afterward, a bit of pre-match violence directed towards the Manchester United coach bus did a bit of a damper on the overall atmosphere.
The Tops of the Toppermost
When it comes to inheriting a second-hand pitch, London Stadium is first among its peers. Even before construction had begun West Ham had begun talks regarding the possibility of moving in post-Olympics as if they knew just how good it would all turn out. They weren’t the only football club interested, however, and there was a bit of a tiff in some courtrooms by both Tottenham and Leyton Orient.
It had been used so rarely after the Olympics that it still had that new stadium smell, but that has a lot to do with the fact that it went into a period of redevelopment to better ensure that it would become a football stadium first and foremost.
Certain sections of stands were removed and replaced, West Ham-themed designs and logos were added, and FC-themed stores and coffee shops were opened just before the handoff in mid-2016. Before that, the biggest sporting events held in the stadium was the London Athletic Grand Prix and Rugby World Cup in 2015.
West Ham’s first game at London Stadium was a 3-0 victory over the Slovenian club, NK Domzale. But it’s luck for the first Premier league went a bit naif, as they gave up a two-goal lead to lose to Watford 2-4.
Take The Ultimate Tour
By far, the most exciting thing a West Ham United fan can do at London Stadium is to see all of it, including an amazing look behind the scenes. The official tour is not simply limited to walking around the stands when it’s empty and having a quick step onto the pitch.
No, you will be able to visit the home changing room and feel like you’re the most important person in the world as you walk down the players’ tunnel. Being able to experience the view from the managers dug out while giving you a whole new appreciation for what David Moyes sees every afternoon.
The only thing better is Match Day tours, where the excitement of what is about to come is much more palpable in the air. Going right from behind the scenes to your seat in the stands is an experience that should not be missed.
A Park Fit For a Queen (or King)
While most stadiums in London are surrounded mainly by urbanization or car parks, London Stadium itself is perfectly positioned right in the middle of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which offers plenty of exciting things to do for the athletic or culturally-minded alike.
In addition, you can choose from several other sports from cycling, swimming, tennis, and hockey at the different venues that operate within the park.
If you want to relax a bit more, you can take some nature walks in the northern area of the park, and before or after that you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes if you’re feeling a mite peckish.
To those with strong sea legs (or wondering if they have a pair), the park boat tour glides along the river that cuts right through the park, giving you a great view not only of the many sports venues used but also plenty of natural parklands.
To take it all in at once, you certainly can’t beat the view at the top of the ArcelorMittal Orbit (quite the tongue-twister title), and if you don’t feel like walking back down, take the world’s longest tunnel slide all the way to the ground.