How was the tsunade cut in half

From the central stadium to the Red Bull Arena: How the "bowl" was cut in half

It was a showcase project for the GDR leadership. The central stadium was built from rubble after the bombing of Leipzig. 100,000 people came to the inauguration game in 1956. In the meantime, only half as many spectators fit into the completely modernized Red Bull Arena.

Leipzig: With Germany’s once largest stadium, it’s a bit like the Leipzig City Tunnel. There were plans for both at the beginning of the 20th century, but they were implemented much later. More concrete ideas, a large stadium on the “Frankfurter Wiesen”, as the area of ​​the sports forum was once called, had existed since the 1920s, the National Socialists picked them up in the 1930s, but it would take until after the war, until the big one Project was realized under new rulers.

Stadium wall made of war rubble

The sports-loving SED boss Walter Ulbricht liked the idea, perhaps also because he was born only a few hundred meters away from the intended location and because “Ulli” and his comrades loved large parade stages as much as the Nazis. Ulbricht is said to have wiped the first drafts for 60,000 spectators off the table, with the announcement that this should be increased. And so, on the drawing board of the architects Eitel Jackowski, Karl Souradny and Heinz Schütze, a plan for a 100,000 oval, embedded in other stadiums for hockey (20,000), swimming (8 to 10,000) and other sports, as well as a large festival area was created.

Looking back: the construction of the Leipzig Central Stadium

Construction began on April 15, 1955, and it was opened on August 4, 1956. The Central Stadium in Leipzig was also known as the Stadium of the Hundred Thousands. Until its demolition in 2000, it saw numerous high-class soccer matches and sporting events. © LVZ archive

A few years after the war, however, many viewed the construction of a stadium with skepticism in view of the great shortage of housing. But one made a virtue out of necessity. From 1945 onwards, around a third of Leipzig's war debris landed on the Frankfurt Meadows, because there was space there relatively close to the city center. So the idea was born to shape the huge stadium wall out of it. In fact, large arenas made of concrete have been built since the thirties at the latest (e.g. the Berlin Olympic Stadium, the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro). But in Leipzig, after teething problems from 1955, the giant bowl was created out of rubble in a year and a half.

Grandiose European Cup games

On August 5, 1956, 100,000 attended the inauguration game between the reigning GDR champion Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt (actually Aue) and Honved Budapest. There was a record shortly afterwards in the match between Wismut and 1. FC Kaiserslautern, when Fritz Walter scored his legendary Hackentor in front of 110,000 and led the West Germans to a 5-3 victory. On September 8, 1956 there was also a record attendance for the GDR Oberliga, which was to last forever: 90,000 officially came to the local derby SC Rotation against SC Lok Leipzig, but there were probably even more.

CLICK THROUGH: Lok Leipzig in the European Cup

October 3, 1973 - After their victory away from home, 1. FC Lok Leipzig also wins at home against AC Turin and moves into the second round of the UEFA Cup. (@ Archive) ©

This was followed by grandiose European cup matches for 1. FC Lok, many international matches from the GDR team and great local derbies. The oval was also the scene of major athletics competitions, field handball, the peace ride and, last but not least, the shows of the GDR sports festivals.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the resurrected VfB Leipzig played one season in the Bundesliga. After years of decline, investor Michael Kölmel kissed the sports facility awake with the conversion to the World Cup arena with the help of funding from January 2000 and finally RB Leipzig landed in the modern football arena, which can now hold a good 42,000 visitors and is skilfully located in the old Wall hugs.

CLICK THROUGH: Pictures from the construction site tour on February 26, 2020

Part of the wall that surrounds the Red Bull Arena is currently being removed. We were allowed to visit the huge construction site. © Dirk Knofe

Start of building: April 15, 1955 (official)

Opening: August 4th 1956 with the game SC Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt - Honvéd Budapest 1: 3

Capacity at opening: 100,000 seats (almost all uncovered)

Modernizations: several, including 1977 upgrade of the floodlight system to 2000 Lux

Reopening: March 2004 for almost 44,345 spectators as a pure football stadium for the 2006 World Cup (previously also a venue for games for the Confederation Cup in 2005).

Conversion costs: 116 million euros

Current capacity as a venue for RB Leipzig: a good 42,000 spectators, renewed modernization is currently in progress, capacity is planned to be increased to over 50,000.