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scouting

Groundhopper's guide to..... Suwon World Cup Stadium

Suwon Samsung Bluewings relocated to the city's World Cup Stadium shortly after the last brick was laid. The move brought to a close their hugely successful stay at the nearby Suwon Stadium but two decades on from the move, the Bluewings are no longer a domestic powerhouse and now languish dangerously close to a first-ever relegation. This is our short guide to their stadium.



The exterior of the North Stand. The giant gray blocks are meant to resemble the towers at the local Hwaseong Fortress. (Image: All images are from instagram.com/groundhopping_korea)

Full disclosure. I'm not a Bluewings supporter but I love their stadium. There is no running track, temporary seats, or cheerleaders. The roof over the main stand is breathtaking and the stairwells behind both goals meant to resemble the Hwaseong Fortress are genuinely cool. Unlike Seoul's World Cup Stadium, there's plenty of color at a ground also known as Big Bird.

The stadium opened in 2001, just in time for that summer's Confederations Cup. That tournament marked the beginning of a rich history of hosting international tournaments. While it isn't considered the national team's home stadium, it has recently hosted the Korean men's and women's teams. As an Irish football fan, Big Bird represents the Republic of Ireland's last appearance at a World Cup. How depressing.

With a capacity of 44,000, Big Bird is the second biggest in the league but the struggling home team only attracts a fraction of that for most games. One of the advantages of their disappointing decline is those colorful seats look good in the hot Korean summer. If the unthinkable happens, at least Suwon will know they have the best stadium in the second tier.


Location:

Suwon is the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do, 30 km south of Seoul. There are currently two Seoul Metro lines connecting the city with the capital. This area of the country is also home to various K League 1 and 2 clubs, offering groundhoppers extra Futbology check-ins. 
 
Big Bird is 30 minutes west of downtown Suwon by bus. Suwon Sports Complex, which features professional clubs in football, baseball, and volleyball, is 3 km north. As at other World Cup venues, the surrounding area is a space for match-goers and socializing, so don't be surprised to see people walking their dogs, skateboarding, or jogging around the exterior railings.


Transport Options:

- train: Suwon Station, on Line 1, is a major stop for subway and intercity services. It is an hour away on foot and 30 minutes by bus. The closest station is on the Suin-Bundang Line at Gwanggyo Jungang.
- bus: There are plenty of buses from central Suwon to Big Bird, including 720-2, 13-4, and 32-4. These buses leave from in front of the station and make their way slowly down the busy Suwon streets to the stadium.
- car: Parking is possible but spots will be taken up quickly, even for a quiet, midweek game.


Tickets:

- Online: Suwon Bluewings' tickets are available from Interpark. Given the team is in a seemingly permanent state of decline, local interest is fading. There's no reason to book in advance, even for a derby.
- Ticket booth: There are ticket booths dotted around the stadium, including a big one behind the North Stand, next to a convenience store.

Ticket booth behind the East Stand.


Where to sit:

The West Stand is the main stand in Suwon. For most games, the upper tier isn't open. Tickets cost between ₩21,000 and ₩26,000.

The roof over the West Stand was built to resemble a bird. 
The East Stand offers cracking views of the West Stand and it is a good place to enjoy the noise coming from the home and away fans. The halfway line seats are ₩2000 dearer than the blocks on either side. Gaze up at the club's honors from a time when the Bluewings were a powerhouse. The East Stand also has tables and a picnic area. Prices start at just ₩15,000.

The East Stand is a great spot to watch a game. 
The home fans are behind the goal on the North Stand. There is so safe-standing section but most fans stand anyway. The upper tier is closed. Tickets are ₩15,000.

The home fans are behind the goals to the north. There's no safe standing, but they stand anyway. 
Away fans are across the pitch in the South Stand. Home fans are not permitted here. The upper tier is also closed but decorated with giant advertising tarping. ₩15,000.

The away fans are behind the opposite goals.

Merchandise:

The club finally abandoned the awful container club store that was a total nuisance. A new store recently opened and whilst they limit the number of visitors who can enter, the queues are generally short and the selection inside is as good as anywhere else. It looks like a proper club store.

The new club shop recently opened behind the West Stand.

Food:

Food trucks behind the North Stand are situated in a large plaza with a stage, garden seating, and a really old-looking convenience store.

Chicken and beer are always the best combination.

Drink:

Tsingtao is sold in 330 ml cans and poured into plastic cups by the staff. One neat feature of Big Bird is the stores have some or limited views of the pitch, similar to Incheon Football Stadium. This means when you're ordering beer, snacks, or water, and you hear the crowd roaring, you don't have far to run to find out what's going on.

Post game:

Suwon's World Cup Museum is a good spot to kill some time before the game. It features plenty of 2002 World Cup memorabilia. 

The Hwaseong Fortress should be on any day-tripper's wish list when visiting Suwon. The giant West Stand roof is visible from the walls of the fortress, as is the Suwon Football Stadium and KT Wiz Park, in baseball.


Finally, if you are planning to visit this stadium or any others in Korea, and haven't already done so, please download the Futbology app. It is a great way to find information about stadiums and keep track of all the teams and grounds you have visited.

FNR

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