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Revival of the Wageningse Berg

Column by Jens den Boer


Like a castle on the hill, at the summit of the Wageningse Berg lies a football stadium fittingly nicknamed the impenetrable fortress ("De Onneembare Vesting”). Today Wageningen is known for its prestigious university and research institutions. But among others, FC Wageningen was known for their incredible 1-6 victory over an undefeated PSV in the quarterfinals of the KNVB Cup, their biggest home defeat yet. with a group of classmates, I had the great honor of visiting the stadium for one of our introductory courses Landscape Perspectives. During our visit, we had some spare time to play a little football ourselves, and I stood there, keeping the goal where Henk van Meij scored the winning goal against DWV on that fateful day in 1948 when FC Wageningen won the KNVB Cup.


A few years before their glorious victory, the impenetrable fortress fell during a siege by axis powers and was heavily damaged by bombings in the process. Shortly after the war, rebuilding efforts had been set in motion providing FC Wageningen with their iconic ‘staantribune’ and a roofed stand, both still standing to this day, although maybe not in their best shape.


More bad luck came in 1992 when their main sponsor was forced to part ways with the club, putting FC Wageningen in a tough financial situation. When they were denied financial support by their own municipality, they sadly had to declare bankruptcy.


The stadium has been empty since and was awaiting an uncertain future. In 2010 Boei, an organization specializing in restoration and repurposing cultural heritage bought the stadium. Partnering with Future Centre, Boei plans to repurpose the Stadium into an innovative and multifunctional complex with expertise in nutrition, movement, and health. Recently Boei reached an agreement with the neighboring Fletcher hotel allowing the stadium to be used as a training ground for professional teams who stay at the hotel.


I spent a few days in the Fletcher Hotel in Wageningen with my family. During our arrival we watched with excitement how Venezia (a professional team from Italy) checked into the same hotel that we would be staying in. Venezia was on training camp and would use the stadium as a training ground.


Some might say the impenetrable fortress has become a contradiction to its past nickname. FC Wageningen has fallen and now the stadium is under new management with new teams playing. Could Wageningen ever imagine a future where their castle, their holy ground would be used as a mere training ground by any other team, even their former rivals like Vitesse?


But I beg to differ. If you ever have the chance of visiting, it still gives the impression that the stadium belongs to FC Wageningen. The white and green colors are still there, you can find their logo and murals of their players still painted on the walls. Fletcher has their flags around the field making it look like they just took over as their main sponsor. The legacy of FC Wageningen lives on thanks to the volunteers who keep the field and its surroundings in excellent condition.


You have the ground and the canteen, often still filled with loyal supporters, telling the story onwards of FC Wageningen and almost giving birth to a legend, how someday in the past a great club used to reside here. A club that despite a great many setbacks was able to overcome obstacles and still carry forth its legacy in some way.


Just like how medieval castles have become part of our cultural heritage, the Impenetrable fortress to me deserves the same kind of treatment. Standing there like a castle on the hill, telling tales of great victories and insufferable defeats, fall, and rise. That's why after visiting and learning about this sacred ground I am so happy with Boei and the many volunteers for carrying forth the legacy of this special place. It may not be FC Wageningen playing on the ground, but maybe we should be a little proud that a bankrupted stadium on the verge of collapse is now on the radar of many professional teams and is being used as a center of innovation.



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