This massive stadium in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany, is very pleasing to the eye. You can wander around for hours asking yourself what it would be like in 1950 when the stadium was opened with a match between the German Süd and the German Südwest team. This stadium contains plenty of German football history. Despite the fact that some parts of the stadium are renovated in 2007, the majority of the authentic stadium is preserved. You can go nuts with your camera, as the old parts are really photogenic.
Before the second World War
In 1937 the stadium was built so Adolf Hitler had a place for his speeches and to organize sport events. It could hold 14.000 people. The stadium was named after the dictator. There is one remarkable fact. If you see the list of Hitlers’ speeches, after a quick Google search, none of them were held in this stadium.
During the Allied bombings of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen am Rhein, the stadium was completely destroyed and a new stadium had to be built.
After the War
In 1946 the new foundation of the stadium was constructed and it took them four years to finalize the stadium itself. On November 11th, 1950, the stadium was opened. At that time it was considered as one of the most modern stadiums of Germany and it could hold 41.383 people. Besides that it was one of the biggest stadiums in Germany at that time with great infrastructure around it. The Major of Ludwigshafen wrote the German Football Association (DFB) an application for the Südweststation to become the home for West-German national team. It showed the ambition of the local government.
Stadium, but no major club
The stadium was not build for any German football club, so the authorities needed to find a solution. Their suggestion was a fuse between the three major clubs of the region; Arminia 03 Ludwifshafen, VfR Mannheim and Waldhof Mannheim. It turned out to be a very bad idea, as the rivalry between the clubs was simply too big. A lot of protests and even small riots gave a clear message. It ain’t gonna happen!
Their second option was asking 1. FC Kaiserslautern to play in Südweststadion. Eventually they played several matches in Ludwigshafen. One of them was the match against Schalke 04 with 70.000 visitors. Nevertheless they decided not to leave their home ground Betzenberg. Eventually Arminia Ludwigshafen became the resident of the stadium.
One hundred thousand
Probably one hundred thousand people were attending the match. We are talking about the national championship match of West-Germany in 1954 between VfB Stuttgart and Saarbrücken. Two of the biggest clubs of the country at that time. The stadium was sold out in no time. Official records speak of 83.000 fans inside the Südweststadion. They even needed to install extra temporary stands. But those who were there and official police reports speak of 100.000 visitors. A dizzying number.
The stadium was host for several important matches by the West-German national team, but also cup finals and championship deciders. But in 1966 the national team played for the last time in Südweststadion. In 1974, when the World Cup was held in Germany, Ludwigshafen applied for one of the hosting spots, but the committee chose Frankfurt instead.
In the seventies there was another problem. Arminia Ludwigshafen was not able to pay the rent anymore, so they left Südweststadion. In the eighties there was a little bit of hope when Waldof Mannheim got promotion to the Bundesliga and their stadium was not fit for the safety regulations. They played in Ludwigshafen for six straight seasons, but after the relegation in 1989 they also left Südweststadion.
It was the beginning of the end for this magnificent piece of football history. It turned out that several stands were prolapsed, the concrete decayed, the entire stadium was deprecated. In 2007 the stadium was partly renovated. The number of people allowed inside decreased to 6.100. The majority of the stands are declared unsafe and are still untouched today. Definitely worth the visit!
The entire photo shoot of the Südweststadion can be found here: