Same as the old Wembley? Several bloggers were fortunate enough to be among the 60,000 Brent residents to be invited to the first public event at the new stadium and their first impressions sound a strangely familiar note. Rascal Houdi on The National Midday Sun message board concludes:
Stadium, superb.....signage, catering & transport, must do better.
In fairness, the new owners have only had the keys for a week and are working like crazy to get everything ready for the FA Cup Final, scheduled for 19th May, so it would be harsh to expect them to have everything running like clockwork already. Inadequacies are bound to be magnified because this one visit is all we have to go on, but such problems inevitably cause some concern until they are shown to have been fixed. The watching world is put on its guard straight away, for example, if the very beginning of the day goes awry. It certainly gave Earth Girl the wrong vibes:
I wasn't impressed. First they opened the gates 15 minutes late and confiscated my bottle of water at the turnstile.
Reassuring to see the authorities made certain they got that old chestnut sorted right from the off. Safety reasons, of course, though we hope they've been alerted about the Chelsea celery. Anyway, not enough to ruin your day when you can easily pick up supplies from one of the 688 catering outlets, more than four times the number at the stadium's old incarnation! What's that? Oh.
The catering is an utter shambles. The queues are massive, nothing appears to be working properly & the staff appear bewildered &, frankly, clueless. At the concession we chose two-thirds of the menu seems to be unavailable...
Ah. Rascal Houdi quick to dispel any illusions there. And Earth Girl is quick to join him:
I finished reading the last 3 chapters of my book - queing for coffee.
Things start to look up a bit when navigating your way to your special place amongst the throng of 90,000:
The crowd control and flow routes are clever - you go in an entrance that leads only to your ticketed level, and all of the exits take you straight back to ground.
So says bullox.net, though not everyone had as much luck. Rascal Houdi didn't find it straightforward:
There's no signposts for stairs or escalators & we're lead around the concourse by a steward trying doors at random to see which one might reveal the way up.
Might be the same steward Earth Girl found:
The idiot usher spent half an hour directing people to the wrong seats - plenty of arguments ensued...
What everyone was agreed on, however, was the impression the stadium arena itself makes on you which, let's face it, is the one thing the FA cannot do anything about from here on in:
All things considered, the place is magnificent. Climbing the stairs and catching the first glimpse of the all red-seated bowl is breath taking. Once inside... it's hard not to be taken away by the sheer size and feeling of awe at what is before you. When it's full, the noise will be deafening. I was sat high up at the back but the view was still very, very impressive.
Only about 40,000 of the 90,000 seats were occupied and the views from the lower level where we sat were fabulous. Although one of the largest stadia in the world it has an intimate feel.
Much was made beforehand of the vastly increased number of bathroom facilities in the new Wembley and the impression was given that all 2,618 toilets might be flushed simultaneously as a test. What seemed to impress visitors more than anything else in that area was the dryers, albeit that there's apparently only one per bathroom at the moment. Still, that might be all they need. As A Simple Man puts it:
The hand-dryer is strong enough to power a jet engine.
Despite these teething troubles, bullox.net sums up the general optimism of most of Saturday's visitors:
It’s a real feat of modern design. Things seem pretty well thought out, and most of it looks like it’ll stand the abuse it’ll get. Much of it is your usual stadium concrete and metal, but Wembley is on a bigger scale.
Earth Girl, though, was not won over:
To sum it up in one word - disappointing.
Picture again via Londonist going past on a train a fortnight ago.