Denmark’s first stadium
A sports and entertainment venue has stood on the site of Parken Stadium for more than 100 years.
In the early 1900s, sports gained more and more traction in Copenhagen as a recreational activity for a growing population that needed to unwind in healthy surroundings after a long day’s work.
In 1904, local politicians began to look at the possibilities of building what was to become the country’s first real sports facility. It was not until 1908, however, that the municipality allocated money for construction work to begin on the large green area at Østerbro, which we know today as the Copenhagen Common Park.
Several football clubs were already based here, including B1903, which is one of F.C. Copenhagen’s two parent clubs. They were founded close to the Copenhagen Common Park, and it was not until 1929 that B 1903 moved to the current facilities on Lyngbyvej in Gentofte.
For many years, F.C. Copenhagen’s other parent club, KB, were also based close to the Copenhagen Common Park, but already by 1892 they were renting their own pitches on Sct. Marcus Allé, where Forum is now located. In 1928 KB moved to their current facilities on Peter Bangs Vej in Frederiksberg.
THE IDEA BEHIND COPENHAGEN SPORTS PARK
7 March 1911 is the official opening day of the Danish National Stadium. It is today known as Parken, but until 1992 was named Copenhagen Sports Park (Københavns Idrætspark).
On this date, Copenhagen Sports Park was formed as an independent institution by the Municipality of Copenhagen and the related sports and athletic organisations.
The reason for its establishment was a wish on the part of the Municipality to make the sports organisations, through their own leaders, partake in the administration of the subsidies granted for the promotion of this side of welfare and health.
The idea was to provide basic facilities which enabled the sports organisations to earn money from entrance fees, so that their requests for more facilities always should be kept within the financial capabilities of the institution. In that way, the Municipality didn’t need to shoulder the financial burden onto taxpayers during a period when there was high need for public investment in residential properties, schools, hospitals etc.
Copenhagen Sports Park did not arrange matches or other sports events, but only provided facilities for the sports organisations, who rented them from Copenhagen Sports Park.
Copenhagen Sports Park included not only the football pitch, but also an international athletic centre (today named Østerbro Stadion), The Sport House (“Idrætshuset”), The Hockey Ground (a field hockey pitch for men and women), The Tennis Hall, during the 1920s The Park Theatre (a cinema today named Park Bio) and a Swimming Pool & Public Baths (“Svømmehallen”).
The Hockey Ground is the only venue that no longer exists, while the Tennis Hall is used for other purposes.
FIRST FOOTBALL MATCH
The first football match was played on 25 May 1911, where a selected Copenhagen team with players from KB, B.93, Frem and AB lost 3-2 to English side Sheffield Wednesday.
The Danish Crown Prince greets the players efore the official opening match.
THE FIRST YEARS
Before the inauguration of Copenhagen Sports Center, the big matches were played on B 93’s pitch on Øster Allé, and the record is believed to be approx. 6,000 spectators for the first cup final in 1910.
Copenhagen Sports Park could accommodate approx. 15,000 spectators, and for the opening match there were around 10,000, of which roughly 700 could sit in the Main Stand.
That stand was an area that also served as a clubhouse for the smaller clubs, who played on the common football grounds in the adjoining Common Park.
At that time Denmark was widely regarded as the strongest footballing nation outside the British Isles. In 1914, Denmark beat England’s national amateur football team 3-0 in Copenhagen Sports Park in front of approx. 20,000 spectators, which for many years was a stadium record.
In 1923, a new stand behind the goal, which featured standing terraces, was inaugurated. Facing Øster Allé, it was initially built without a roof, but cover was eventually established in 1925.
This stand, called “The cement”, also accommodated modern changing and bathing facilities in the basements. At the same time, a smaller wooden stand was built at the other end, and it was called “The Hockey field stand”, because of the field hockey pitch behind it.
In 1933, an architectural competition was launched for a new stand on the side opposite the Main Stand. It was put into use in 1935 and popularly called “the B.93 stand”, because B.93 had their training facilities right behind it.
The Hockey field stand was also expanded, and a corner terrace was made between this and the B.93 stand.
INCREASING ATTENDANCE FIGURES
With the new stands, a new Nordic attendance record was set in 1936 when Denmark met Sweden in one of the traditional confrontations between the rival neighbouring countries. Two years later, a Sweden game drew 38,000.
Such large numbers of spectators were, however, among the exceptions. In the ‘30s, national matches usually “only” drew approx. 20,000, but interest was increasing, and in 1939 a total of 560,000 spectators were recorded for all matches at the Copenhagen Sports Center.
However, the grass could not withstand the increasing number of matches, and already many games were being played at the clubs’ own facilities, as well as on several new pitches around the capital.
Eventually it became clear that the National Arena had to be modernised, and especially the old Main Stand, which was outdated and practically run down.
COPENHAGEN SPORTS PARK HAD EVOLVED
By this time, Copenhagen Sports Park did not only run the sports facilities on Østerbro, called “The Central Section”.
A second section of grounds in the suburbs, called “The Outer Section”, had been built up over several years proportionally with the growth of the city and the growing interest in various sports activities.
The Municipality had decided in the 1920s to let Copenhagen Sports Park build and operate these new facilities. Partly to make use of the expertise they had gathered at the central section in Østerbro and partly to consolidate the operations around the city in a common unit.
Each of the two sections had its own financial system, with the Municipality paying the deficits incurred through The Outer Sections, which mainly consisted of grassroots sports.
In the Central Section, the sports organisations themselves pooled all the incomes and expenses, irrespective of whether any branch of sport worked at a profit or at a loss.
It was a system of ‘one for all and all for one’, and if the annual accounts showed a profit, this was spent on improvements and new installations, and any deficit was covered by the institution itself and not the taxpayers.
NEW MAIN STAND IN 1955
Although Copenhagen Sports Park had widespread autonomy, they could not make major decisions without approval from the Municipality. And it took almost 20 years of planning and consideration before a decision in 1950 was made on a new Main Stand.
World War II of course put many construction plans on hold, but the physical location of Denmark’s National Arena was also an issue.
The Danish dream of hosting the Olympics meant that for many years they planned for a large Olympic facility in Valby, where a new National Stadium was also to be built with capacity for 100,000 spectators.
This would reduce Copenhagen Sports Park to a minor venue which obviously delayed decisions about any modernisations. In the end, the politicians decided not to invest huge sums in Olympic facilities without any guarantee of even getting the event, and thus Copenhagen Sports Park was allowed to build a new main grandstand.
It was built from 1953-55, while it was still possible to play on the pitch, and the new Main Stand was inaugurated in October 1955 with an international match against England.
As an extension of the new Main Stand, corner terraces with standing areas were built, which linked the stand down the length of the field with the two ends behind the goals.
At that time, the new Main Stand was the highest in Europe, but also generated a lot of criticism because it did not provide much shelter from wind, rain or snow.
The main contractor, Christiani & Nielsen, seemed particularly inspired by stadiums in South America, where they built a Grandstand in Caracas, Venezuela, and were also involved in the construction of the gigantic Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. This really impressed the Danish Football Association.
The new Main Stand brought the total capacity up to 52,000 and with a new and modern floodlighting system.
The Main Stand also provided office spaces for various administrative football organisations, the head office of Copenhagen Sports Center, dressing rooms for players, referees etc. and, in the basement, dressing rooms and club rooms for the small clubs in the neighbourhood.
Sometimes more than 100 matches were played at the stadium over a year – the average was about 80 – so it was not surprising that the grass was regularly criticised and demanded considerable maintenance works at no small expenses.
It was primarily the Copenhagen divisional clubs that used Copenhagen Sports Center’s pitch: AB, B 93, B 1903, Brønshøj, Frem, HIK, KB, Skovshoved and ØB. Right up until the beginning of the 1970s, there was usually one match on Saturday afternoon and two matches back-to-back on a Sunday afternoon, and for large parts of the year also several matches during weekday evenings.
MAJOR RENOVATION IN 1992
During the 1970s, Copenhagen Sports Park was the home ground for only the Danish national team, KB and B1903, but B1903 increasingly began to play at Gentofte Stadium due to declining spectator interest and increasing stadium rent. KB also had these problems in the ‘80s, but mostly played in Copenhagen Sports Center.
On the other hand, the increasing success of the Danish national team positively affected the interest of going to internationals at Copenhagen Sports Center.
The capacity was reduced from approx. 51,000 to approx. 45,700, as several standing areas were rebuilt with seats to meet the new demands for safety and security, and the requirements from spectators, sponsors, media et.
In the mid-1970s, Copenhagen Sports Park took a new step to generate more income and utilise the stadium’s available capacity during the summer, when they decided to allow stadium concerts.
The very first “gig” was on 1 July 1976 with Danish band, Gasolin, as the headline act, after Genesis had to cancel.
In the following years artists such as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Prince and David Bowie played at Copenhagen Sports Center.
The concerts attracted a new audience, which increased the expectations for more modern facilities at the traditional, but out-of-date stadium with three stands from the 1920s and ’30s.
Again, there were serious considerations about moving Denmark’s National Stadium, this time to Brøndby, but once more the final decision was made to stay at Østerbro and instead completely rebuild Copenhagen Sports Park. As part of the decision, the municipality decided to sell the stadium to a private investor, Baltica.
On 15 November 1990, the demolition of the Cement Stand, the Hockey Stand and the B93 Stand began, while the Main Stand from 1955 was allowed to endure as a terrace behind one of the goals. The pitch was turned 90 degrees, while tower buildings with commercial leases were built on three of the corners of the new stadium. This was to provide commercial and office space that would help finance the stadium build.
On 1 September 1992, the new National Stadium was ready for inauguration under the name “Parken” (The Park), as Copenhagen Sports Park had always been popularly called.
F.C. COPENHAGEN AND PARKEN
In 1992, F.C. Copenhagen were also founded from the merger of KB and B1903, with Parken as the club’s permanent home ground.
After a few years, Baltica wanted to sell the stadium, and when no other buyers came forward, F.C. Copenhagen decided to make the purchase on 1 July 1998. Initially the club only bought the stadium part, but a few years FCK also acquired the office towers.
In 2001, a 13,000 square meter roof was laid over Parken, so that concerts and other events could be held regardless of wind and weather.
Thirteen large steel girders running on rails along the main stands ensure that the roof can be installed and retracted in a relatively short time. The first event under the roof was the Eurovision Song Contest, where Denmark was the host country.
NEW D STAND
The old Main Stand from 1955 stood for approx. 50 years before the time was right for a renovation. Demolition began in December 2007 to make way for a new, state-of-the-art stand, which was ready in the summer of 2009. It consists of both a fixed terrace and a flexible telescopic stand, and is today serves as the Family Stand for F.C. Copenhagen’s home matches, which is dedicated to the youngest fans and their families.
WIFI AND STADIUM VISION
From 2014 to 2020, Parken changed its name to Telia Parken as part of a major sponsorship deal, where the telecommunications company, among other things, also guaranteed free wi-fi for spectators throughout the stadium.
In addition, in 2015, in collaboration with Samsung, 350 video screens (“Stadium Vision”) were set up around Parken’s indoor facilities to further improve the stadium experience and bring the ground to a par with elite European stadiums in terms of visuals and interactivity.
The Telia sponsorship ended on 31 August 2020, and since then the stadium is called Parken.
From 1 January 2022, Parken entered into a new, large stadium sponsorship deal with the telecommunications company 3.
Parken is still called Parken, while the stadium partnership has the title “Parken – Connected by 3”.