The Ernst Happel Stadium, once known as the mighty Prater, is doing brisk business these days. New grounds are en vogue in Austria at the moment, and in Vienna, the latest club to announce a makeover is Austria Vienna. This comes just over six months after their fierce rivals, Rapid, moved out of the Gerhard Hanappi stadium while it was being demolished to make way for a new ground – the Allianz Stadion.
Austria Vienna had a disappointing season in 2014-15, finishing seventh in the Bundesliga, 30 points behind champions Salzburg. Two years ago, they were champions and playing in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
On Wednesday night (June 3), Austria Vienna were beaten by Salzburg in the ÖFB-Samsung-Cup final in Klagenfurt as the champions completed the double. A few days earlier, Die Veilchen (the violets) unveiled their plans to make their Generali Arena (formerly known as the Franz Horr Stadion), into a UEFA four-star stadium. Work will begin in May 2016 and for two seasons, Austria Vienna will play their home games at the Ernst Happel. In other words, as Rapid move back to Huettelforf, they will pass their neighbours as they take up residence in the national stadium.
The EUR 48m initiative is called the STAR Project and appears to be trying to lift Austria Vienna to a new level and make them more competitive on the international stage. “The project is a milestone for Austria. We have taken our cue from many international models that have shown that the basis for a successful future is the training of young players and a strong infrastructure,” said the club.
As well as a more comfortable experience – no barriers to obstruct viewing – the new-look Generali , with a 17,500 capacity, will allow the club to make better use of the stadium from a commercial perspective. Training and academy facilities will also be extended.
The club has played at the Franz Horr since 1973, when it took the ground over from a group of Czech immigrants. Prior to the 1960s, Austria Vienna led a nomadic existence. They played their most important home games at the Prater. That never stopped them from being successful – they have won 24 Bundesliga titles and 27 Austrian Cups. And in 1978, they were runners-up in the European Cup-Winners Cup.
Meanwhile, Rapid’s new ground, with its distinctive and unique tubular stand, is taking shape. Another notable aspect of the Allianz Stadion will be a single floodlight pylon from the old stadium. It will not serve as matchday lighting, however, it will represent a monument to the old ground. A nice touch. All lights for the new stadium will be LED and will be located on the roof to minimise light pollution to residents. The ground will be all-seater and have a 24,000 capacity. Rapid will spend around EUR 70m on construction, with 40% coming from a Vienna city hall grant. The club said: “The Allianz will be the most modern in Austria with a clever visitor concept and impressive architecture, as well as improvements for our neighbours.”
It sounds as though there’s a bit of competition going on in the Vienna Derby!