- Justin Grimm
My Mongolia Park Stadium Opens in Darkhan
With nine of ten clubs in the Mongolian Premier League and nearly 50% of the country's population hailing from Ulaanbaatar, it is sometimes easy to forget that football is also played outside of the capital. There is a rich footballing history and culture in the other cities of the country. Darkhan, the nation's third largest city with approximately 150,000 residents in the metro area, is becoming one of those provincial hotbeds.
The Darkhan-Uul representative team has won four of the last ten National Championships, a competition that sees the "national teams" of all 21 aimags compete to determine who is the best in the country.
Darkhan-Uul were crowned this year's champions at the 21st edition of the AFC-approved tournament that wrapped up in August. The Darkhan team has aspirations of one day soon playing in the nation's top flight league. Now they have a stadium which will be a suitable home for all football activities and ambitions of the city.
Final match of the 2022 Darkham-Uul Provincial Championship
With construction commencing on 8 May 2020, the city of Darkhan officially opened the My Mongolia Park Stadium on 16 October 2022 with local dignitaries, athletes, and delegates of the Mongolian Football Federation in attendance . The final of the provincial championship was held as the first match at the stadium as part of the festivities. The construction and ceremony also coincide with the 60th anniversary of the city, whose name means Blacksmith in English as it was originally constructed as an industrial center.
The 1,700-seat stadium is equipped with industrial light masts, individual seats, a FIFA-approved turf surface of regulation size, changing rooms, parking for 300 vehicles, and all other amenities required to host major national and international tournaments. The stadium also features available wi-fi through a partnership with the Mobicom Corporation.
The aimag dished ₮1.6 billion ($454,000 USD) or a whopping 2.5% of the its budget into the project with Dorniin Urgoo LLC getting the construction contract.
The stadium is located adjacent to My Mongolia Park, a large public park in Darkhan that includes a small number of amusement rides.
Despite the official opening, the local government announced that smaller projects would be finalized throughout the upcoming year, including landscaping at the property. As part of the same funding package, other fields in the aimag will also be refurbished.
The stadium will supplant the Darkhan Central Stadium, the location of the city's Nadaam festival, as the home of football in the city. Darkhan City FC, a team that has played at least two top-flight seasons and produced many talented players over the years, will also call the stadium home.
With the opening of the stadium, what can fans of Mongolian football expect? It is clear that the city is eager to become a center of football and is very ambitious. Is it possible we could see a national team match played there? A team in the Premier League? The short answer is maybe.
Darkhan City has direct, affordable, and regular public transportation in the forms of busses and trains from the capital. The train covers the 230 kilometers (142 miles) in just over four hours for less than $5 USD. The road will get you there an hour sooner, but is known for its poor and sometimes dangerous, condition. However, improvement projects are underway.
A lack of local airport could be a stumbling block. The two nearest airports, both international, are Chinggis Khaan in the capital or Baikal International Airport in neighboring Russia. While Ulaanbaatar offers numerous international connections, Baikal only offers seasonal flights to and from Phuket, Thailand.
A capacity of 1,700 will seem tiny to many fans of international football...until you consider that an average of 1,560 spectators showed up for Mongolia's final three matches of 2023 Asian Cup qualification. These were without question some of the biggest matches in the team's history. With Ulaanbaatar fans not showing much enthusiasm, perhaps it is time to give other cities the opportunities to support their nation.
Construction Image Gallery