Some 300 inhabitants, but more than 6,000 spectators (if Covid-committing) at an ice hockey home match – there is likely no place in European professional sports, which is coming with a quite like Ambri in Ticino, Switzerland. The HC Ambri-Piotta is a traditional member of Switzerland’s highest ice hockey league, the National League A. Until previous season, one of the reasons which made them well-known in the global puck scene was the Valascia, one of the most remarkable ice hockey temples in the world.
Due to the risk of avalanches (and, simply, as the place really got too old), they now play in a brand new arena. The venue name might change, but the place which has sometimes been called Nuova Valascia (“New Valascia”) is officially operating as Gottardo Arena or Gotthard Arena. I had a visit in early December 2021, watch an HC Ambri-Piotta home battle against ZSC Lions from Zurich.
Gotthard-Arena – Location & Transport
Ambri-Piotta is one of the most special ice hockey locations in Europe (or even globally) – and that even includes the location of the Gottardo Arena. It is in fact located on the premises on the Ambri-Piotta airport (LPSM). Like for matches held at the old arena, the airport is closed for home matches, as they use the runway as car park. Be aware, they give you a time until when you have to be out of there – planes might be waiting. Thereby, the location is really convenient, as the the A2 Gotthard motorway is right next to the arena. The famous Gotthard pass road and Gotthard car tunnel is just a few kilometers away.
Alternatively to driving to the Gotthard-Arena, many people reach out to Ambri-Piotta train station, which is a maybe ten minute walk away from Ambri’s new ice hockey shrine. Once an hour, there are connections to Lucerne and Basel in the North and Bellinzona in the South. There are also some post bus connections. Before and after the matches, there are additional Ambri-Piotta services connection to Bellinzona. However, this does not apply for the “derby” against local rival HC Lugano. There is just very rare accommodation available in Ambri – so if you look for a hotel to sleep after an evening game, you might rather go for a hotel South of Ambri – the additional trains are much more convenient than scattered bus services heading towards Airolo, where I stayed.
Gotthard-Arena – Arena & Tickets
Construction works for the Gotthard Arena have started in April 2019. The arena opened on 11th September 2021 with a match against Fribourg-Gotteron. The arena has a capacity of 6,775 people. More than half of the capacity is held for standing fans, there is also a minor standing area for guest fans. Even though the arena has been built with a rather limited budget, the inside of the arena is a real beauty. There are loge and premium seats on upper level. The navigation to some of the seats is a bit of tricky, but you finally get used to it. The seats are really nice. I had a seat in section E, opposite to the huge block of Ambri fans in the standing area. Ticket price was 60 CHF, roughly 55 EUR.
The areas you don’t see at first sight, e.g. the aisles around the stands, feel rather purposeful than posh. The toilet were really nice before the match. However, the cleaning during the match / before the intermissions did not work well.
Gotthard-Arena – Atmosphere
Gotthard Arena is not the Pista Valascia – but the arena is definitely a breathtaking experience due to the Ambri-Piotta fans. They really push their team at each home match – I would even sometimes feel that the HCAP here and there exceeds its potential in their best matches. In line with the website of the club, announcements have been done in Italian and German in almost all cases at the home match during Zurich’s ZSC Lions, which I attended on 4th December 2021.
Gotthard-Arena – Shopping & Services
I really loved the catering in the area. There is even a restaurant, which serves great pizza – but I went for a burger and fries. Including a drink, it was 15 CHF, which is rather amazing compared to other Swiss location. There are also a bunch of food and drink booths in the arena. Multiple places were – surprisingly – cash only. The coolest thing regard catering, however, was that they sold home-made slices of cake for 3 CHF. A 6,000 people ice hockey party feels like the good, old junior league matches. That just made me smile.
There are some souvenir points in the arena, but I suggest you to visit the Ambri-Piotta store before you enter the arena. I just had to buy some memories and take them with me to Germany – I would have loved the Ambri-Piotta branded panettone, a traditional style Christmas cake. The prices are rather moderate Swiss level. I bought a scarf for 25 CHF and a t-shirt for 35 CHF.
The Old Pista Valascia
What would a visit to Ambri be without visiting the legendary original Pista Valascia, before the place will be turned down one day. Bad luck that it is already quite dark in the Ticino region at 17:00 hrs in December. But even the closed down place is spreading some magic. Some motion-activated lights were still working. At daytime, you will likely still have the chance to have a look inside the old area. Great place of sports history.
Gotthard-Arena – My View
Even though I am a bit of sad that I missed their historic arena – visiting a home match of HC Amrbi-Piotta at their new home grounds is a unique sports experience. I would highly recommend you to take that trip, if any possible. The atmosphere is very kind and friendly and the people love their club. Gotthard Arena / Gottardo Arena is a temple of European ice hockey.
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