After huge foreign investment and the expert stewardship of Pep Guardiola over the past few years, Manchester City’s time in the wilderness has evolved into the venerable team taking their place at the top of European football, and hospitality at the Etihad Stadium befits the pedigree they’ve been developing.
The Etihad stadium began life as the athletics venue for the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth games. While initially purpose built for athletics, alterations have since been made to make it more football friendly, and in 2003, Manchester City began the tenants of the stadium that would come to be known as the Etihad.
Manchester City had previously been playing their games at Maine Road, which had been their home since 1923, giving it roughly an 80-year life span as the club’s home ground.
City vacated Maine Road and moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2003, then known formally as the City of Manchester Stadium. There were plans for further expansion at Maine Road to take the capacity to an all-seated 45,000, but these were abandoned in favour of the eventual move. Etihad Stadium, as well as being the home of City, is also a popular music venue, best seen in Oasis’ infamous performance there in 1996.
The final competitive match before the closure of the stadium took place on 11 May 2003 with a Premiership match against Southampton. Tickets were sold upwards of £250 and drew a crowd of nearly 35,000, about 100 off maximum capacity. City lost the match 1–0 with Michael Svensson scoring the stadium's last goal. The final match was followed by performances by musical acts Badly Drawn Boy and Doves. Manchester City's last ever goal at the stadium was scored on 21 April 2003 by Marc-Vivien Foé during a 3–0 victory over Sunderland. Forty-five days later, the player died on 26 June from an undetected heart condition while representing the Cameroon national football team during the 2003 Confederations Cup.
The 2002 Commonwealth games proved to be a great success, and the stadium, then with a capacity of 41,000, played a key role in that. The first public event at the stadium was the opening ceremony on 25 July 2002. Among the dignitary’s present was Queen Elizabeth II who made a speech, delivered to her in an electronic baton, and 'declared the Commonwealth Games open'. During the following ten days of competition, the stadium hosted the track and field events of the athletics schedule and every rugby Sevens matches. Sixteen new Commonwealth Games track and field records were set in the stadium, eight of which are still extant after three subsequent series of Games in 2006, 2010 and 2014. Prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, the 2002 Games was the largest multi-sport event ever to be staged in the United Kingdom, eclipsing the earlier London 1948 Summer Olympics in numbers of teams and competing athletes.
The subsequent conversion into a fully-fledged football stadium, fit for a premier league side, took place between 2002 and 2003. It involved substantial work, primarily the excavation of land and the current running track in order to be able to add an additional tier of seating. Getting rid of the track would also make the stadium more football friendly, bringing fans closer to the action.
In the early years of life at the Etihad Stadium, the team often seemed to struggle in their new surroundings. Under first, Kevin Keegan, and latterly Stuart Pearce, attendances often remained low, and the team meandered in the middle to lower half of the premier league table. But the club’s fortunes were changed during an ownership takeover by Sheikh Mansour. The funds he injected into the club from 2008 onwards, has seen Manchester City rise over the course of a decade from midtable mediocrity to three-time Premier League champions. The increase in spending on the pitch has been matched by widespread investment off the pitch as well. This came first in the form of widespread renovations to the training facilities, as well as the building of an entirely new academy infrastructure and purpose-built stadium.
In the post takeover years, the Etihad stadium pitch has been the stage of many a dramatic, historic moment. Most infamous of all was of course Sergio Aguero’s last minute goal to win Man City the Premier League in 2012, a truly iconic image. But add to this glorious win at home against Barcelona and Juventus in Europe, and its no wonder that the Etihad has now become one of the most recognisable stadia in world football. Man City, now with esteemed Manager Pep Guardiola at the helm, enter the 18/19 season as Premier League Champions, after becoming the first top flight team in English football history to get 100 points in a season. You can be sure, the Etihad Stadium is the place to be in English football for many years to come
Whether it’s an elevated day at the game at The Commonwealth Bar with its lively atmosphere complimented by VIP seats and premium food options, or the unique experience of the Tunnel Club, letting you watch the players arrive onto the pitch before you take your pitch side seat behind the player dugout or the truly exclusive wining and dining experience in The Chairman’s Club, Etihad Stadium Hospitality has something for everybody.