With the UK abuzz following the previous night’s London Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies, my father-in-law and I decided to check out a local pre-season football friendly between Southampton FC and Ajax of Amsterdam. The match was held at St. Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, a city of 300,000 on England’s south coast. The 30,000 seat riverside stadium is located on a former industrial site adjacent to the regional train line and nearby St. Mary’s Church where the club was founded and after which the ground is named.
The first thing you notice as you approach St. Mary’s is a series of white trusses that support the stadium’s roof. Inside, the single-tier stadium is equal in height on all four sides and the exterior roof structure allows for a column-free interior. Opened in 2001, St. Mary’s is one of a series of new stadiums built in the UK in response to the Taylor Report which required all British football stadiums to be all-seater by 1994. The stadium’s bright red seats were on full display in the half-full stadium, which with the brilliantly green grass made for a colorful late afternoon palette. The first impression is that the stadium feels a bit generic, lacking any defining feature. Upon closer inspection however, the simplicity of scheme and lack of unnecessary flourishes gives the stadium a wonderful purity inside. The clean lines of the single bowl, the lack of in-stadium advertising and minimal lighting structures located on the edge of the roof make this a nice, simple, comfortable stadium to watch a football match and escape Olympic fever.