De Meer
Stadium De Meer
Stadium De Meer
De Meer 1934 - 1996
'The value of a football stadium is not determined by the building costs but by the team playing in it'. This was the basic idea behind the Ajax Board's plans for a new stadium, Ajax's second. The 'De Meer' stadium was to become Ajax's home base for 62 years, where legendary players such as Piet van Reenen, Wim Anderiesen, Rinus Michels, Sjaak Swart, Henk Groot, Johan Cruijff, Piet Keizer, Marco van Basten and many others built up the worldwide reputation Ajax now have.

Again the club's successes and outside pressure were reasons to move. Not only had the successes in Ajax's first 'Golden Age' greatly increased the numbers of supporters, but the annual maintenance costs of the covered wooden stand were a strain on the club's finances. In addition the City of Amsterdam had building plans for the municipality of Watergraafsmeer which it had incorporated.

Not far from the old location the Ajax Board found a site at Middenweg opposite Betondorp which still had a farm 'Voorland' on it. The architect of the new stadium was himself an Ajax member. Daan Roodenburgh was commissioned by the Ajax Board, chaired by Marius Koolhaas, to design a 'cosy Ajax home', though it should not cost more than 300,000 guilders as there was, after all, an international economic crisis and the club had to pay for the new stadium from its own funds. In fact, even the players chipped in.

The official opening of the new Ajax stadium on 9 December 1934 was marked by a friendly match against Stade Francais (which now no longer exists) from Paris. Ajax won the match 5-1. The Amsterdam alderman Dr. I.H.J. Vos seems to have hit the nail on its head: in his opening speech he said that:

"Amsterdam, together with the excellent architect [Daan Roodenburgh, ed.], has gone to great lengths ... to make this football arena into an outstanding complex."

The new stadium was indeed very impressive. Although before building started it had been decided not to put up any floodlights (they were not installed until 1971), the stadium did uniquely have its own covered sports hall where the players could train in the event of bad weather. Over the years, the stadium's capacity was expanded from 22,000 to 39,500 spectators.

Just as with the wooden stadium, the Ajax 'De Meer' stadium was changed and expanded many times over the years. In 1965 the seats opposite the main stand were covered and named after Jack Reynolds to honour the legendary coach who had worked at Ajax for thirty-three years. In 1968 the Ajax restaurant was built, due to which the park in front of the stadium's main entrance had to go. In 1985 the remaining uncovered stands behind the goals were covered, and a year later the first sky boxes in the Netherlands were built for the sponsors and more well-off spectators. And finally, in 1988 the press stand was entirely renovated and in 1989 the main stand was renamed the 'Jaap van Praag Stand' to commemorate the honorary chairman who had been killed in a car crash a year before.

In the late eighties Ajax had grown too big for the 'club's living room', and the stadium could no longer accommodate the large numbers of supporters and spectators that Ajax's games drew. The increasing hooliganism during matches in the Netherlands forced the club to take all sorts of security measures, which did not improve the atmosphere in the stadium. In addition, UEFA ruled that by the year 2000 all stadiums had to be all-seater stadiums. This meant that 'De Meer' would become too small, and although it pained many to say goodbye to the place where so many legendary players had played and so many historic matches had taken place, Ajax decided to move.