London has Tottenham and Arsenal, Madrid has both Real and Atlético, while Paris has PSG and Rome has Roma and Lazio. All big capital clubs in their own stadiums filled to the brim on most matchdays. Germany have Hertha Berlin and newly promoted Union with the former in the Olympiastadion and die Eisernen in their quaint Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
The big dilemma for Hertha down the years is they are one of the few ‘capital clubs’ that don’t rank as a big club in their own league and don’t own a stadium fit for purpose.
The Old Lady have occupied the Olympiastadion since 1963 but have always struggled to fill the 74,475-capacity stadium built originally for the 1936 Olympics. Over recent seasons, Hertha have averaged a home attendance of around 50,000, which represents just a meagre 64% of the stadium’s total capacity. The Bundesliga average is at 92% showing that Hertha have a real issue.
The club’s current lease on the Olympiastadion expires in 2025 and the club have made it clear that they want to build a privately funded stadium of their own which would be smaller (around 55,000), more financially viable as well as being better suited to their fan base.
“In the Bundesliga world, which represents 95% of our matchday operations, the stadium is no longer sustainable and suitable in the long run” Hertha president Werner Gegenbauer has explained.
“As a team and a medium-sized company, we do not want to carry the drawbacks of an ageing stadium that is too big. Hertha BSC strongly believes the Berlin federal government knows the necessity of a new stadium.”
More than 50 potential sites were said to have been considered by the club, but the firm favourite option was to build a 55,000-capacity stadium next to their existing home at the Olympiapark. All the necessary transport links and infrastructure are in place and it would still feel like ‘home’.
However, the club were dealt a huge blow to their plans when Baugenossenschaft 1892 (a cooperative that owns residential buildings adjacent to the site) refused to sell their properties, thus scuppering the club’s plans.
“The solution to the housing issue is central to us” explained Sports Senator Andreas Geisel. “We have always told Hertha that not a single apartment call fall victim to a new stadium construction. We will now go into further discussions with Hertha to explore the possibilities that still exist. It’s clear: Hertha belongs to Berlin.”
Brandenburg Park over in Ludwigsfelde was considered as a second option, which lies 9km south of the city border and 18 minutes by train from Potsdamer Platz. This would not appeal to fans who would hate to see Berlin ‘lose’ its team.
Politicians in Berlin want the club to remain in the Olympiastadion rather than build a new stadium.
There now appears to be a new front-runner with the site of Berlin-Tegel airport being considered. The airport is due to close in 2021, with the long-delayed Brandenburg Airport scheduled to open in October 2020.
“We are pleased that Senator Geisel has made this proposal for the Berlin Senate” a Hertha statement has said. “It is a good signal that the state government recognises the importance of a stadium of its own for Hertha BSC and, with Tegel Airport, brings an alternative location to our favourite site on the Olympic Park.
“Together with those involved in the Senate, we will seriously consider the idea of constructing a stadium of the appropriate size on the grounds of Tegel Airport. However, it is still too early for a detailed assessment, especially on topics such as infrastructural connectivity.”
2025, Hertha’s stated date for movement into their new stadium seems a long way off, but so too does any definitive answer as where that ‘new home’ will be. The search goes on.
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