On September 11th 1998 the Cologne "Haie" (Sharks) opened their new home, the Kölnarena in front of a new german record hockey-crowd of more than 17.000 fans with a 6:3 victory over the Frankfurt Lions. At that time the Kölnarena was easily the best multi-purpose arena in Germany and one of the top venues for sports, concerts and other events in Europe. The Haie more than doubled their attendance-figures despite a rather unsatisfying season in which the team had to battle for a playoff-position until the very end, and after the team went out in the first round of the playoffs vs Frankfurt the question remained wether all the fans would come back to their new favorite team or if the arena-effect would wear off quickly.
Now, the Haie are currently playing their fourth season at their new home, that question seems to be answered. Even though attendance-numbers are slightly below those of the first season the Haie still average close to 12.000 fans per game, and that while Cologne´s soccer club, the FC Cologne, came back into the first Bundesliga after a couple of seasons in the 2nd division. Compared to numbers below 6.000 at their old arena the increasement is a real eye-opener for hockey in Germany. Nobody ever thought that hockey had such a high fan-potential anywhere in Germany, but nowhere before the stage was set for a real mainstream crowd with a real comfortable and modern arena before. Considering the fact that many other cities and teams are planning the construction of new arenas, Berlin, Munich and Nuernberg only to mention a few, the german hockey league might finally turn into the european NHL somewhere down the road.
Compared to most US-arenas the Koelnarena is not a seating-only areana. About 1.500 standing-room places remained behind both ends of the ice in the lower level in order to accomodate those fans of the team who had standing-room tickets the years before at the old arena of the team and did not want to move into a seating-section at the new venue.
All in all one can easily state that the Koelnarena has no reason to fear any comparison with any NHL-arena in the United States or Canada, it would probably even be one of the top venues across the Atlantic Ocean.
While Cologne got an arena of the 21th century when the Koelnarena opened the ticket-prices of the next generation of stadiums followed right behind. Seating-tickets sell between 30 and 85 marks, parking at the arena is 8 marks and a comparable amount goes for a drink and a burger, easily... . But the fans don´t seem to enraged by the pricing-policies of the arena as one can see by the attendance-figures, and when I remember the old and shabby barn of the team I can honestly understand why almost nobody would want to attend one more game at the old building, even though the atmosphere was supposingly a lot better for most games due to the smaller size of the arena and the higher number of standing-room tickets.
"Finally I can go to a hockey-game again without arriving two hours early at the
arena in order to get a good standing space", a fan of the Haie told me prior to the
first game of the Haie in 1998 at the Koelnarena. This sentence basically is the proof
that mainstream Cologne is turned in on the team again. Those who didn´t want to spend a
lot of money for a seat at the old arena and freeze to death during the winter when the
only alternative was to get a cheaper standing-room ticket and arrive hours early in order
to see the ice are back at the gate and it´s only good for hockey in Cologne and hockey
Tips for visitors
Due to the rather high capacity of approximatly 18.500 the risk is rather low to be out of luck at the box-office prior to a game. Weekend-matchups against good teams might draw nice crowds but won´t sell out, the only exception being games against the rivals from Duesseldorf and playoff-games. Both game against Duesseldorf in the 2000/2001-season sold out within days and months ahead of the opening face-off, but other than those two games the team did not sell out a single home-game so far, only reaching the 15.000 plateau once in a finals-rematch vs the Munich Barons.
Just in order to be sure or in order to get a good seat it might be wise to buy tickets in advance. You can do so at all Cologneticket (Koelnticket) outlets throughout the city (the big book-stores in the pedestrian areas sell tickets) or by calling 0221-2801. I would especially advise you to order in advance if you want to get a standing-room ticket. Only 1.500 are available and they are usually sold out. If you´re staying at a big hotel such as the "Flandrische Hof" you might also try to get tickets at the reception, many companies and hotels in the arena have their own corporate suits inside the arena.
I would personally buy tickets for the 2nd level (light blue and deep blue below). They are still rather affordable at prices between 35 and 40 marks and offer a pretty good view on the ice. The orange seats in the lower level are also pretty good but usually sold out, the straights cost a bunch more with tickets going for 65 and 85 marks.
Getting to the arena is rather easy. If you´re in downtown Cologne just go to the "Neumarkt" (central point where most public transportation lines meet) and take train number 1 or 7 across the Rhine. Get off at the station "Koelnarena" or where all other people get out.
If you´re travelling by car just follow the signs to the Cologne Trade Fair (Koeln
Messe). Signs are all around town and in town so it shouldn´t be really hard to find.
There are no parking-spaces surrounding the arena due to the fact that the building is in
town but the arena has a huge parking garage (8 marks).
Links to the team:
Homepage of the team: www.haie.de