The Jahnstadion in Marl is probably a hidden treasure for groundhoppers, despite the fact that it has some unique details regarding German football history. It is definitely worth the visit, but be quick as local government wants to demolish it.
The stadium was opened in 1927 after three years of building and named after Friederich Ludwig Jahn as more stadiums in Germany at that time. It was the home of TSV Marl-Hüls for a long time. After allied bombings the stadium was rebuilt in 1948 and 1949.
Despite the fact that the club became more and more successful, the stadium was not fit for that purpose according to the West-German press. It had no atmosphere, no character. Everyone agreed, a new stadium had to be built. In the 50s and 60s, all over Germany multifunctional stadiums were built and Marl with its ambition had to follow. Architect Aribert Riege was hired to give them an appealing stadium matching its surroundings.
He came with an unique design. The stadium would be built into the ground so you had a good view on the threes around it. The main stand would get a self-hanging roof supported by two large pillars. Hanging underneath this roof the VIP and press boxes, the first (sort of) sky boxes in West-Germany.
The capacity of the stadium was 36.000 people with the possibility to expand it to 55.000 people building a second tier on top of the stadium. In reality crazy numbers for a relatively small town with less than 90.000 inhabitants. The plans were approved and in 1964 the stadium was reopened.
The ambitions proved to be bigger than reality. As TSV Marl-Hüls failed to get results on the pitch, a year before opening the new Jahnstadion the club relegated. The debts of the club grew and they went further down to the amateur leagues.
Because of the financial problems of the club, the stadium went down with them. Less people found their way to the stadium with 1.500 on average at top matches. Also the state of the stadium became worse and worse. Local authorities had no money to renovate again. One short end got demolished to cover up the decay. Eventually in 2005, TSV Marl-Hüls played their last game in Jahnstadion.
Since 2008 the stadium is used by the local baseball club, but the stands are not in use anymore. More and more is Mother Nature taking over. The question is how long this piece of German football history will remain? Since a couple of years there is a plan to totally demolish the stadium to use the space for new houses.
I visited the stadium in February 2016. At first sight it was not easy to enter, as a big fence surrounds the area. But, if you walk to the left alongside the fence between the threes on the short end, you will find a small building (probably a former ticket box) and the fence there is cut open. From there, you need to find your way through the busses on the terraces to actually enter Jahnstadion. But it is worth it, really photogenic place.