Portman Road has a current capacity of 30,311 after redevelopment in the early 2000's of both North and South stands. In the past ten years, statues of both Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson have been unveiled outside the stadium. The North Stand was renamed in honour of former manager Bobby Robson before a game with Newcastle United in September 2009. There are very few bad seats in the house and there's generally a very good atmosphere.
Up to 1,900 visiting supporters can be catered for and are allocated one side of the upper tier of the Cobbold Stand at one side of the pitch. The view is very good unless you're at the very back although the leg room is rather tight and in the summer it gets incredibly hot and uncomfortable (trust me). Facilities are very good and the food is what you'd expect to find with the usual burgers, hot dogs, pies and chips at reasonable prices.
Portman Road seating plan:
For away fans, the choice of drinking establishments is very limited. The station hotel between the train station and the ground is as good a bet as you're likely to find. In the town centre, there are many more to choose from but probably still best to keep club colours hidden until you leave. In the town centre there's a wide array of fast food outlets such as McDonalds and Burger King along with a few nice Chinese and Italian restaurants for those wanting something more substantial.
There are three pay and display parks along Portman Road with a total of approximately 800 spaces. It costs £3.50 to park your car for the Saturday afternoon. However, early arrival is recommended to ensure a space as street parking is very limited in the surrounding areas.
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Ipswich train station is less than half a mile away from Portman Road, and the ground is visible from the station. Upon arrival at Ipswich train station you will simply come out of the entrance and onto Princes Street. You'll be able to follow this over the bridge and all the way up to the stadium which will be on your left as you approach.
Trains run in to Ipswich from Liverpool Street and also from Peterborough.
Rivals - Norwich, Colchester
Travel: I had a very leisurely train ride from Hertfordshire, changing at Cambridge. The train steadily filled up with home fans, and it was great to see so many families use this way of getting to the ground. I felt a flutter of excitement as we approached Ipswich Station when I saw the floodlights already on, despite it being an hour before kickoff. This also meant that finding the ground from the station was not the most difficult of tasks! I declined the opportunity of joining a horde of Stokies belting out Delilah in the Riverside Hotel opposite the station and headed straight to the ground. Portman Road must be one of the easiest grounds to get to by train - the only one I've been to as close is Carrow Road.
Refreshments: There was a really lovely atmosphere outside the ground, despite Ipswich looking like they were dead certs for relegation with a third of the season remaining. It was good just to wander around, savouring the atmosphere (including one ardent fan shouting out unintelligible chants using a megaphone!) The stewarding outside the ground was incredibly laid back - I can't remember seeing any police at all, and only a few other stewards were present. It made for a very pleasant twenty minutes or so wandering around before I went through the turnstiles.
Impressions: The two new stands at both ends of the ground looked very impressive from outside although (unusually these days) a walk around the perimeter of the whole ground isn't possible. The area behind the Alf Ramsey Stand is fenced off, and the whole of the area outside the East of England Co-op stand is taken up with a huge fanzone (probably the biggest I've seen). As time was pressing on, I didn't go in, but there seemed to be plenty going on in there. Once inside the ground, I had a pre-match pint (Greene King IPA for £3.90) in the visitors' bar. This was quite a spacious area just inside the turnstiles, and there were no queues at all. I made my way up to the upper tier of the Cobbold Stand and the views were surprisingly limited by the low roof, even though I was far from the back of the stand. The two new stands looked very impressive (although sadly only half-full) and what I could see of the main stand opposite, it looked a little tired. The dressing rooms in the corner were quite quirky and I'm glad that corner hasn't been filled in.
Atmosphere: Considering our bad form of late, the 1,100 Potters Fans certainly made a lot of noise straight from the kickoff. As mentioned elsewhere, the noise was amplified by the low roof and we couldn't hear anything from the home fans. There was a really poignant moment early in the game during a break in play. The Stoke fans struck up with "There's only one Gordon Banks" (who had sadly passed away five days earlier) and this was met with universal applause from all sides of the ground. It really did bring a lump to my throat. The game itself was very poor and was dominated by mistakes from either side. The Ipswich keeper was untroubled until the 42nd minute (other than picking up a punt all the way from Jack Butland in the Stoke goal) when James MacLean capitalised on a defensive error to score with Stoke's only shot on target. With Stoke's inability to maintain a clean sheet, it seemed inevitable to me that Ipswich would eventually equalise and they did so in the 92nd minute with a straightforward goal from a corner. At last the Ipswich fans found their voices! For the travelling fans, it was (yet) another draw which felt like a defeat. I didn't venture back down to the bar at half time (and, in any case, I wouldn't much have fancied paying £4 for a pie) but I did pop into the gents. I was hit with a wall of cigarette smoke which was quite unpleasant. The stewards either seemed unaware or unwilling to do anything about it. In fact, the stewards were pretty laid back in general and we were able to stand for the entire game.
Anything Else: Getting out of my seat took a while longer than usual as the exits seemed unusually narrow but once I was out of the stadium it was a breeze to get away. (The visitors are housed in the corner of the ground closest to the station, which was a bonus!) I was back at the station 10 minutes later and on a (packed) train less than half an hour after final whistle.
Enjoy: Despite the result, I have no regrets about going to Portman Road. It's still a ground with plenty of character and is very easily accessible by public transport. The action on the pitch was pretty terrible, but everything else made it a worthwhile day out. I only hope that I don't get to go again - this time with my mate Richard - next season in League One!
Ground Name: Portman Road
Capacity: 30,311 (all seated)
Address: Portman Road, Ipswich, IP1 2DA
Main Tel No.: 01473 400 500
Team Nickname: The Blues or Tractor Boys
Year Ground Opened: 1888
Online Shop: ITFC Photos