Even though it is a some 50 kilometer drive from Cologne to Gummersbach, the VfL Gummersbach is not only the sports pride of the area around Gummersbach, but also the number #1 team for handball in the million people city in Germany. Due to various reasons, Gummersbach used to play some of their home matches in Cologne’s Sporthalle (which has been turned down in 1998) and, later, in the today’s LANXESSarena and thus have a strong connection to the city. Since 2013, the former Handball Bundesliga team is having their own, fit for purpose arena, the SCHWALBE arena in the heart of Gummersbach. I visited a home match against local rival TuS Ferndorf in the 2nd Handball Bundesliga, their last home match of the calendar year 2022.
SCHWALBE arena – Location & Traffic
SCHWALBE arena is right in the heart of the city. The Forum shopping mall and the train station, which is offering direct connections to Cologne (travel time: some 1:15 minutes), are in close proximity. The Forum also offers parking capacity, the fees are very moderate (at least for evening matches). In general, there are a lot of parking options around.
Other services next to the arena are the Halle 32, which is used for shows and concerts mainly and an outlet of Cologne Technical Applied University. The mall and the city center of Gummersbach offers additional services. The arena is, by the way, located at the Heiner-Brand-Platz, named after Gummersbach’s most famous player in history and former German national team head coach.
SCHWALBE arena – Arena & Ticket Situation
VfL Gummersbach is stating the city to be the Heimat des Handballs – “Home of Handball”. Maybe a bit too much marketing – but at least SCHWALBE arena is giving them a handball home. The arena cones with a capacity of 4132 people. For the second Bundesliga match I visited, my ticket was 35 Euro. This is the best seat category available – you may go for significantly lower prices. The only way to pay even more is going for the VIP upgrade – the 150 Euro investment gives you access to an exclusive VIP area which also grants you food. The seat in the area is the same category as I did , though, i.e. a center seat. There are also some business lounges.
For the second Bundesliga and under the rather relaxed Covid-19 constraints in December 2021, ticketing was rather easy. I just decided to visit the match a few days before it in fact happened. I guess that if you have more popular matches (like German Cup) or if Gummersbach (what is happening likely) is playing in Germany’s top division, the Bundesliga, in the 2022/2023 season, this may change drastically.
SCHWALBE arena – Atmosphere
The much I don’t like too energetic marketing like this Home of the Handball thing, the much you just cannot deny that Gummersbach is a handball city. The people love their club and it is deep in their hearts. Thus, the atmosphere in SCHWALBE arena has been even good when there were rather few people in the area and the match was not that dramatic (at least in the second period). The kangaroo mascot Jumpy is not too pushy, which is also very nice. The stadium announcements were at a friendly level and not made to blame the guests.
SCHWALBE arena – Food & Shopping
I guess that Gummersbach slightly limited the food and drinks they offer at their home arena – but, nonetheless, the food situation was really nice. There were some basic dishes (like sausages) and a variety of drinks. The service was kind, but felt to have potential to work out quicker. You could also buy some souvenirs and the merchandise booth – the coolest item VfL Gummersbach offers is undoubtedly a club-logo imprinted, manually produced piece of soap.
VfL Gummersbach at SCHWALBE arena – My View
I guess that the locals don’t like that thinking too much – but to me VfL Gummersbach is still somehow a Cologne sports club. The more, I was nervous to see SCHWALBE arena for the first time (it really feels to be ages ago since I have seen the team). The experience in the arena was really fun. The services went well, including getting into the arena (despite all the vaccination checks). The traffic connection is excellent. If you enjoy handball and you are around (or if you are simply a sports buff), I definitely recommend the visit.
Flyctory.com Sports Coverage – Rhineland Region
Here is all my sports coverage tagged as All around Cologne, i.e. the Rhineland in Germany: