Back in the 80’s it was a concept barely seen anywhere in the world.

A modern, technology enabled super stadium is something that up until the 1990’s really only existed in Japan or the USA.

PSV Eindhoven broke the mold with the Philips Stadium but that was perfectly understandable given Eindhoven was a technology city – the clue being in the word ‘Philips’ the electronics company that backed the club.

The idea of a stadium with a sliding roof and a disappearing pitch shattered all preconceived ideas of what a football stadium should or could be in Europe.

Sliding roofs, hydraulic lifts, false floors a multi laden technologically enabled stadium.

An electronic scorecard with moving images.

It was unheard of in all of European football.

When it was all being planned the club home for Vitesse was Nieuw Monnikenhuize, a small stadium situated in Monnikenhuize, a northern neighborhood of Arnhem.

The Nieuw Monnikenhuize had been around since 1950. It witnessed a key period in club history when Vitesse Arnhem nearly went to the wall in 1985.

Four years later promotion was gained to the Dutch Eredivisie.

European nights a plenty were experienced at the Nieuw Monnikenhuize – Dundee United, Real Madrid, Norwich City and Sporting Lisbon being just a few of the most famous nights.

On 21st December 1997, Vitesse defeated FC Twente 2–1 in the last ever game at its humble post war home.

Historically the idea of building a multi-functional stadium, which had more than double the capacity of Vitesse’s old Nieuw Monnikenhuize stadium, had came from the Vitesse chairman Karel Aalbers.

The ambitious, visionary chairman had been playing with the idea from as early as the late 1980’s. The model of the stadium was around for interested eyes even in 1989.

Originally a new stadium had been scheduled to open in 1991 with a structure called the Eurodome.

But it took until 1996 and the prospect of the upcoming UEFA Euro 2000 championships for construction to finally begin on the idea.

Vitesse Arnhem were founded in 1892 and alongside Sparta Rotterdam they are one of the oldest professional football clubs’ in the Netherlands.

The roots of the club name stems from the French word Vitesse, meaning “speed”. But the origins of the club colors stem from much closer to home.

The flag of Gelderland is a horizontal tricolor of blue, yellow and black with the latter two colors being that of the club.

The GelreDome eventually replaced the Nieuw Monnikenhuize as Vitesse’s home ground on 25 March 1998.

Dejan Čurović opened the new chapter for Vitesse with a beautiful goal.

Equipped with a retractable football field and a movable roof, the stadium became one of the main football attractions for fans in Holland – both home and visiting supporters. At the push of a button, the concrete box, in which the pitch is located, could be pushed out under the Theo Bos South stand, where it receives sufficient sunlight.

Inside the stadium on a match night or afternoon with the roof closed the sensation can be strange. At times it feels like a Basketball Arena at other times completely artificial.

You ask yourself the question of whether the pitch is grass or hybrid.

The original estimated cost was £35-£40 million with large subsidies coming from the Dutch government, the local province and the Arnhem municipality. However, due to planning issues; the KNVB awaiting confirmation of Euro 2000 and the selling of the original site for housing it was 1998 before the new stadium was opened.

The GelreDome has two sliding roofs which cover the entire playing area. UEFA Euro 2000 was hosted in Arnhem as part of the tournament and did a good job.

Incorporated within the stands is a retractable stage (a sliding playing field) and cooling/heating system of the entire structure. The ‘false floor’ playing field moves out and in comes an 11,000-ton platform, a solution that has since been replicated in other stadiums worldwide.

But the stadium has not been without problems.

Effectively the Gelredome is now owned by a private entity, a land developer.

The local municipality had purchased the stadium in 2009 for €19 million, but sold it on again at a fraction of the €75 million paid to build it in 1998.

Making the stadium ‘pay’ stems from its versatility as the stadium holds numerous types of public events every year outside of football. Inside you can eat Vietnamese food or Chinese food – the idea is to bring fans in early to enjoy a host of culinary delights not really experienced in many football stadiums.

Making it pay as a modern football venue is the biggest challenge.

A monument stands at the place where the Nieuw Monnikenhuize stood. It now stands as a place of reflection for supporters in good and bad times.

In 2021 Vitesse reached the KNVB Cup Final for the fifth time in their history but lost to Ajax.

The good times saw Vitesse miraculously qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League Group Stages defeating Anderlecht in the qualifying phase.

They also went on to reach the last 32 of the competition.

The bad times have seen the club nearly go to the wall following financial issues that came to a head in 2023.

Towards the end of the 2023–24 Eredivisie season, Vitesse was relegated after being deducted eighteen points for failing to comply with the KNVB’s license requirements amid continuous financial troubles.

They ended the season on only 6 points.

The roots of the problem were legal matters, bank account issues and the inability to obtain licensed accountancy services in the Netherlands due to an association with former Russian owners. Making matters worse, the KNVB had accused Vitesse of deliberately or accidentally providing inaccurate and incomplete accounts following investigations into Russia sanctions.

With large debts the club resorted to keeping its operations going thanks to crowdfunding appeals.

Only in early July 2024 was the future of the club secured.

It professionals license is now being restored and Vitesse will commence the 2024-25 season in the second tier.

The future both immediate and long term will be a challenge but the GelreDome will be there to help the club through.