New Lumpini Stadium
The 11th of February saw the first night of action at the brand new state of the art Lumpini boxing stadium. The official opening is set for the 28th of February, with the shows before that used to find any problems and sort them out before the big show.
After a lot of planning and one short lived plan to move the old stadium close to the original one, the new Lumpini stadium was finally completed and hosted the first night of fights on the 11th of February. The new stadium is far removed from the historic old venue on Rama 4 road with a bright modern feel to it and with the second and third class sections higher up and closer to the ring you would get a good view of the action anywhere in the stadium. There are plenty of reminders everywhere of the old stadium though with large pictures of old fights and areas of the classic stadium in the entrance halls and stairwells.
One of the big concerns with the new stadium has been access, with it situated further out of the center of he city,on Ram Intra road. The stadium is close to the old Airport Don Muang and as of yet doesn’t have any Skytrain or Underground as close as he old stadium had. The nearest stations are the Pahonypthin MRT station, with the Lard Prao station also not too far away. It is about 9 kilometers to the stadium from Pahonypthin MRT and when I tried on a Saturday night it took about 20 mins and was about 90 baht in a taxi, midweek would be a different story though traffic wise and would be best to allow between 30 mins to an hour, unless you fancy an adrenaline rush before the fights, in that case you could do it fairly quick on a motorbike taxi. Another option to get there is to get the overland train and get off at Laksi station and get a taxi or motorbike from there.
Another concern would be whether the new stadium would have the same atmosphere as the old one, with you sometimes getting the feeling the roof would get blown off when the crowd got into full swing. The new stadium is similar to Ratchadamnern in that it is a large cavernous building with the sound staying inside. During the first bout it sounded a little echoey at forest as the fight warmed up, but in the fourth round when the gamblers started to get behind the red corner as he was coming from behind, the sound of them roaring on every shot seemed a fair bit louder than the old stadium.
One of the first big impressions you get walking in is the difference in temperature between the old corrugated iron roof stadium and the new air conditioned one. Gone of the days of running out between rounds to buy a ‘Paa yen’ or cold towel. The new stadium is cool, so cool I wished I had worn a long sleeve shirt.
From a photographers point of view, the most important thing to getting a good image is good light. The old stadium was a fair way away from what you would describe as good light and you would need to have an extremely expensive camera with great low light capabilities., or alternatively blast he fighters with flash. The new stadiums lighting seems to be greatly improved, it’s still not perfect, one of the problems being with the gamblers around the ring, the inability to dim the lights outside the ring as well, but it looks like it will be a lot easier to get great action shots at the new stadium.
The facilities for the fighters look to have been improved as well with separate rooms to prepare, with nice clean toilets and showers inside for the fighters.
The heart and soul of any stadium though is the fighters themselves and although the new stadium has without a doubt lost some of its rustic, authentic feel, the fights are still the same, proved by the opening night that got a large thumbs up from the crowd, for some great, close action packed battles. The view and atmosphere seem to have improved as well. It will take a long time to recreate the history of the old stadium which has seen everything from history making fights, mafia assassinations ringside, to the recent sight of a cat somersaulting through the roof and crashing onto the ring in the blue corner during a break in the action. The new stadium is very impressive though and as long as the great fights keep coming I don’t think it will take too long to grow on the hearts of the fight fans.