The old PRATERSTADION, located in the Leopoldstadt district of the Austrian capital city of Vienna, was originally opened in 1931 and had already undergone several major renovation projects when another significant change arrived in the early 1990s.
Upon the passing of a legendary figure in the history of Austrian football, local city government officials in Vienna, who are charged with the care and operation of the old Praterstadion, had the home arena of the national team renamed in honor of ERNST HAPPEL.
An outstanding international defender in his playing days for Austria, Happel later became a highly-successful manager and won domestic championships in no fewer than four different countries. The native of Vienna also earned lasting fame by becoming the first man ever to lead two different squads to the coveted and prestigous title of European Cup champions. Happel, who also guided Holland to the Final of the 1978 FIFA World Cup against the host nation in Argentina, was the manager of Austria at the time of his death from lung cancer at the age of 66 in November of 1992.
Complete with the new roof installed in the mid-1980s to cover the spectators and having made the transition to the modern, all-seater football stadium, the ERNST HAPPEL STADION had already hosted the Final of the European Cup on four occasions (1964, 1987, 1990 and 1995) when selected to be the showcase venue for Austria and the site for the Final at the 2008 European Championships.
This prompted even further upgrades to the stadium by now over 70 years old. Inside the arena, the pitch was equipped with a heating system underneath the playing surface during the summer of 2005. Outside the athletic facility, a major project was completed in May of 2008 to connect the Ernst Happel Stadion with the Vienna U-Bahn, the city’s underground railway system.
In all, the newest improvements to what was already one of the continent’s premier football stadiums ahead of the staging of the 2008 European Championships came at a reported cost of nearly 40.0 million Euros.
FINALS contested at the PRATERSTADION / ERNST HAPPEL STADION
1964 European Cup Final ———————— Inter Milan 3 – Real Madrid 1
1970 European Cup Winners Cup ———– Manchester City 2 – Gornik Zabrze 1
1987 Euroepan Cup Final ———————— FC Porto 2 – Bayern Munich 1
1990 European Cup Final ———————— AC Milan 1 – Benfica Lisbon 0
1994 UEFA Cup Final (first leg) ————– Inter Milan 1 – Austria Salzburg 0
1995 European Cup Final ———————— Ajax Amsterdam 1 – AC Milan 0
2008 European Championships Final —— Spain 1 – Germany 0
The ERNST HAPPEL STADION, which has an official capacity of 50,000 spectators, is easily the largest football arena in Austria.
The stadium serves as home of the Austria national team and is also the site of the annual Final of the Oesterreichischer Fussball Bund Pokal, the domestic Cup competition.
Because their own home grounds are considered to be too small to host UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches at the group stage and beyond, both FK Austria Vienna and SK Rapid Vienna stage their European fixtures at the old Praterstadion.
Occasionally, the great Vienna Derby is held at the Ernst Happel Stadion, as well.
An aerial view of the ERNST HAPPEL STADION in the Leopoldstadt district of the Austrian capital city Vienna taken during the Final of the 2008 European Championships contested between Germany and Spain. (AP photo)