No indication you're at Coventry City's ground
26 September ~ In WSC 303, published in April, Ed Wilson questioned what Coventry's RicohArena is. Is it a football stadium; is it a music venue; or is it a state-of-the-art conference facility located just yards from Junction Three of the M6? If my recent stay at the stadium’s hotel is anything to go by then it is a combination of the three. I was looking forward to seeing my hotel room, having spent the day at one of the Ricoh’s conference halls for a trade event showcasing the heating industry. My reservation stipulated a view of the pitch, so it was with a sense of crushing disappointment that my window faced out onto the car park.
Various blurb informed me that I was within a short walk from the largest Tesco in Europe. This was of scant consolation. Staying overnight at a football ground was a novelty I’d yet to experience. Having now done so I can say with confidence that the hotel excels in making the guest feel they are anywhere but the confines of a football club. It’s not that I expected Micky Gynn and Peter Ndlovu to be working in housekeeping – nor did I anticipate themed wallpaper or reruns of Ernie Hunt’s donkey-kick volley. I was merely hoping that the hotel would incorporate some sense of Coventry City’s identity.
On my arrival I was greeted by one of the many staff in high-vis bibs that patrol the stadium’s perimeter. She maintained an admirably cheerful demeanour in the face of a question that had no doubt been asked many times. It was answered by my being directed through a large number of men in suits to the check-in desk. I asked if this level of visiting business activity was normal. She nodded her head and smiled: “Matchday is still our busiest time – although we only had 2,500 for the Stevenage game.” I expected attendances to have fallen in League One, but this figure seemed very low. I checked online – it was actually just under 9,500. Was this a slip of the tongue or evidence of indifference towards the club’s current progress? Probably the former.
There are tips of the hat to the club’s identity within the hotel, but they are for the observant and a little half-arsed. Brian Borrows’s legacy to the club is crystallised in the form of a miniature cardboard Coventry shirt that bears his name. It leans against the condiments on one of the breakfast tables. One wonders what this image conjures up, if anything, in the minds of those eating their bacon and eggs. On a large poster inside the foyer, Take That battle for attention with Liam Gallagher and Arsenal Ladies. That Arsenal play such a visual role in guests’ initial Ricoh Arena experience is disorientating, although successful in emphasising that the Ricoh is a venue for many different things.
Not that I allowed myself to look down my nose at Coventry for hosting corporate events and having facilities that focused on things other than the football club. Rather than castigate them for what some might deem another “soulless” ground, I identified with the plight they find themselves in. Times are tough and there are bills to pay. If matchdays can’t foot them then maybe other events that bring paying guests into the hotel will. It’s just a shame that not all rooms get a pitch side view. Mark Sanderson