Must Play, Must Visit
Since opening in June 1999, the Millennium Stadium has welcomed, on average, over 1.3 million visitors per year. Sporting the first fully-retractable roof in the UK, the venue is at the leading edge as a multi-purpose, multi-faceted event venue.
The Millennium Stadium boasts a UEFA 5-Star rating and has hosted matches from two Rugby World Cups including the Final in 1999, witnessed two Wales Grand Slam successes in the RBS Six Nations, staged six showpiece FA Cup Finals plus hosted the major artists of the music business with a plethora of major concerts and motorsports events on its CV.
The installation of a partition drape system in July 2005 now means that the bowl of the Millennium Stadium can be used for multiple concert mode configurations and for staging exhibitions. Millennium Stadium will also play its part in the London 2012 Olympics as a host venue for the football competition.
The Millennium Stadium is established as a world class must play, must visit venue and has played home to five major sporting bodies over the last eight years.
Background to the Millennium Stadium Project
As early as 1994 a group redevelopment committee was set up to look at redeveloping the Wales National Stadium and linking the redevelopment to the regeneration of West Cardiff. In 1995, the Welsh Rugby Union won the right to host the 1999 Rugby World Cup against severe competition from rival bids from the Southern Hemisphere. A review of the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park (designed in 1962) showed that it had long since been overtaken; with Twickenham and Murrayfield having developed stadia with capacities of 75,000 and 67,000 respectively and France about to build the Stade de France with a capacity of over 80,000.
Capacity in the old National Stadium was 53,000 (including 11,000 standing in the East Terrace). New safety regulations would mean that the capacity would be further reduced by 'all-seater' arrangements. There were no spectator facilities in the old Stadium other than toilets. It was decided that the new Stadium should have a roof to accommodate a requirement for multi-usage and also a natural grass pitch for rugby. Therefore a retractable roof was incorporated into the design brief. The only other retractable roof in Europe at the time was at the Amsterdam Arena (with a capacity of 50,000); the home of Ajax Football Club.
A number of different development options were considered. One included adding a third tier to the existing Stadium, another suggested moving to a completely new site. The Millennium Stadium redevelopment option eventually chosen and supported by the Millennium Commission became the fourth redevelopment in the history of the Cardiff Arms Park site.
It was clear from the budget requirement for the Millennium Stadium (of over £100m) that Government Funding would be required. The only potential source of funding at the time was the National Lottery, set up in 1994, as one of eight major UK projects of the Millennium Commission.
Criteria that the Millennium Stadium had to meet in order to qualify for funding were:
- Public support
- To make a substantial contribution to the community
- To look back on the past Millennium and into the new one
- Mark a significant movement in history
- Be of a high architectural design and environmental quality
- Include partnership with the local community
- Would not be possible on most commission funds
The Millennium Commission were prepared to fund a maximum of £50m worth of the redevelopment. The Welsh Rugby Union decided to raise the remainder of the £114m budget from commercial sources.
After competition from the proposed Cardiff Bay Opera House in March 1996 the Millennium Commission agreed to support the redevelopment of the Cardiff Arms Park site by turning the Stadium through 90 degrees, developing over the existing TAVRA and BT sites, and demolishing the Empire Pool on the corner of Wood and Park streets to create an open plaza guaranteeing safe access and entrance for attending spectators.