Plans – and costs – for the redevelopment of Hungary’s national Puskás Ferenc Stadion have varied considerably in recent years. The latest call for an entirely new arena to be built within the venerable, Puskás-era old one, completed by the end of 2017.
Now that the arena has been confirmed as a host venue for Euro 2020, these plans have been put into action.
At a press conference in Budapest in 2013, a budget was declared of Ft60-80 billion, Ft90 billion including the surrounding area and car park. A ring will be built between the new and old stadia, with space for halls for boxing, ice hockey and training facilities. Capacity for the main arena is slated to be 65,000-70,000.
The original walls will remain in place. What is not clear is what will happen to the statues of heroic figures, sporting, military, industrial, more Socialist-Realist relics of the era the stadium was constructed.
Built by the people for the people (nép), the former Népstadion was named after Hungary’s most famous footballing son in 2002. It was Puskás who strode out onto its turf for its first major international in 1954, Hungary’s 7-1 demolition of England.
He and his team had been part of the volunteers who had helped build it from 1948 onwards. Its official opening was on August 20, 1953, Hungary’s national day, three months before its national side went to Wembley for the famous 6-3 win, again over England. When the Magic Magyars first set out on their unbeaten run, the nearby national Millenáris Stadium, built for the 1896 Hungarian Millennial celebrations, had been surpassed by various club grounds as their host ground.
Planned in the 1930s, shelved by the war, the open bowl of the Népstadion was not only a national arena for football and athletics, and concert stage for the likes of the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson, but a venue for domestic league fixtures too. In the late 1960s and 1970s, double-headers filled the then 70,000-capacity ground.
In more recent times, as well as cup finals, the stadium has hosted the home games of Ferencváros in 2013 and 2014 while their own ground at Üllöi út undergoes a complete rebuild. By the same token, Hungary will be playing their home fixtures there, at Újpest, Györ and Debrecen, while construction takes place here.
The last game of the national team here, 60 years after the stadium’s opening celebrations, was a sad 2-0 pyrrhic victory over Andorra before 5,000 fans in October 2013.
The Puskás Ferenc Stadion has its own stop on the red M2 metro line, one up from main Keleti Station, and on frequent tramline No.1.
When rebuilt, the stadium will be the home of the Hungarian national team. Until then, Hungary play at Debrecen, Györ and other grounds.
If you’re walking up from Keleti, then the Stadion Sörözö is a popular pre-match spot at the junction of Thököly and Dózsa György út. On the other side of the arena, the Félidö (‘Half-Time’) Sörözö (Kerepesi út) performs a similar function at the junction with Hungária körút. Both are pretty basic.
For a more relaxing warm-up, head for Stefánia út, the other side of the indoor sports arena, a short walk along Hungária körút. At the junction, the Ypsilon (‘Y’) is a smart café-restaurant-club with a lovely terrace and Bitburger beer on the drinks menu. Further down Stefánia at No.29, another terrace awaits at the timeless Tücsök Sörözö, with an interior of vintage Hungarian beer posters.
By the arena at the neighbouring SYMA events centre, Planet Sport is a handy bar/restaurant with a first-floor terrace and, inside, vintage photos of Socialist-era sports action.