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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Amsterdam Makes Move to 'Hooligan-Proof' Stadium

COMBINED REPORTS


AMSTERDAM -- Ajax Amsterdam is moving home to a stadium fit for Europe's soccer kings.


From next season, the European and world club champions will play in the new Amsterdam Arena, just south of the city. It boasts a seating capacity of 50,000 and a state-of-the-art sliding roof to protect the pitch from dampness.


With its oval roof and narrow base set in red and purple spotlights, the complex resembles a spaceship hovering on the Amsterdam skyline.


It is surrounded by shops, restaurants and offices and is a far cry from many soccer grounds in the Netherlands where noisy crowds are penned in behind barbed wire fences on crumbling concrete terraces.


"The stadium will be an entertainment center, marking a clean break with the European tradition of getting to the ground 15 minutes before kick-off," said Frits Kuiper of Ballast Nedam, the company that built it.


Ballast Nedam has pioneered the development of safe stadiums and its emphasis is on preventing violence at games. The new Arena is described as "hooligan-proof."


For Ajax, the move could not have come at a better time.


Recovering from huge financial problems and damaging legal suits in the late 1980s, the club has won three successive championships, the European Cup and the world club cup. They defend their European crown against Juventus in Rome on May 22.


The De Meer, the club's home for 62 years, held less than 20,000 fans, forcing Ajax to de-camp to the city's Olympic Stadium for their bigger games.


A worn-out concrete venue that hosted the 1928 Games, the Dutch dubbed the Olympic stadium "Europe's largest urinal."


"Our stadium had become much too small. The Arena gives us the space we need," said Ajax spokesman David Endt, adding that increased ticket revenues would eventually double Ajax's budget.


The De Meer ground is to be demolished for housing developments.


The Arena has already welcomed more than 100,000 visitors. Every day groups of visitors pay $9 each to gawk at the steel and concrete frame. Trips are sold out months in advance.


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European Cup finalist Juventus of Turin reached an agreement that will keep the team in the city for at least another year, Italian news agencies reported.


The team had threatened to play its league games in another city, if the rent on its Delle Alpi stadium wasn't reduced. Juventus had been asked to pay $775,000 next season for use of the 69,000-seat stadium, built for the 1990 World Cup. ()