My first visit inside of this colossal building was on September 7th 2008 when I was taking my daughter to a concert of ultra-mega-extra popular teenage band. As if the fact that I have to attend the teenagers' concert wasn't terrible enough for itself, the temperature that day was some 37 degrees Celsius - complete hell!
We came there two and a half hours earlier, because she has won the "Meet & Greet" (don't ask about it!), so we were able to find one of the last parking spots. Arena is really huge, with a large plateau in front, easy to find and reach, but the parking lot is definitely too small. Only 4.800 parking places comparing to up to 25.000 visitors - that is completely irrational. So if you're going by car you have to options: to come a lot earlier, or to look for parking somewhere else. If you decide to use taxi or public transportation, just think about that twice, because the crowds after events are enormous - it is easy to get there, but it is very hard to get out of there.
The building is very impressive during day and fantastic in the night. It is in perfect spot, next to the highway, not too far from the old part of town, surrounded by big and luxurious hotels. It is very easy to reach, either by car, or a large number of public transportation lines. It is impossible to miss it, so it is used as a landmark for explaining how to get somewhere in New Belgrade.
When we came there, there were already crowds of screaming teenagers waiting in front of many entrances. "Many" is the key word here: there are four main entrances which are easy to find as the signs for EWNS are visible and easy to follow. But if you have to find some smaller entrance, than you might have a problem, unless you're lucky enough to find it immediately. When you try to look for that smaller entrance, don't even bother asking any of Arena staff - they won't give you any info, because they don't know anything that you cannot see by yourself (I suppose that they are there just to look good in uniforms). Just go around and look for yourself using simple logic: you'll find what you're looking for, at the end, if you stick to the side of the Arena you need. And don't even try to ask security staff anything - they're rude and ignorant, and won't even hesitate to yell at you! In addition, they don't even understand their native tongue - so don't try their patience with foreign languages. The best and kindest info I've got from Police officers, who are not related to Arena in any way (they were just doing their regular jobs).
After more than 2 hours of waiting in the hell of a heat and constant sweating in front of the official entrance, where I was waiting for my daughter (to return from that "Meet and Greet" thing), I thought that I was going to drop dead when we enter the hall. But, none of that happened. We have entered without being pushed and pulled by a mass of kids (and their parents), because entrance points are nicely organized. We have freshened up in large toilets, with enough WC and lavatories, so we didn't have to wait in lines. I took a deep breath and prepared myself for enter the main hall, filled with screaming teenagers. It took a while before I've realized that the air wasn't moist and heavy, as one would expect, regardless of some 25.000 people present - the ventilation is so fantastic that all the way till the end of concert we didn't feel any difference. In fact, it was colder and easier to breathe inside the hall (away from the fact that you couldn't hear yourself thinking from all that screaming), than it was on the outside, where temperature did not dropping below 30 degrees (not even at 11 P.M.).
At the end I was completely exhausted, but very proud to know that my city has such modern and completely functional hall. The only two things that should be changed are the number of parking spots and staff friendliness.
My second time in Arena was for the Il Divo concert. Luckily, I did not have to interact with staff, too much, since there was only one (!) entrance. Correspondingly, only one exit - but still sufficient. I'm not an expert for the acoustic, but I think that the hall has perfect acoustic characteristics. As I have heard from others, who have also attended events in the Arena, there is no place in the hall from where you cannot see or cannot hear. This time there were no thousands of screaming girls, and I could really enjoy the perfect concert, with perfect performers, with perfect sound.
Now Arena has put me on real torture: in next two months, there will be three concerts of musicians I like - ZZ Top in October, and Eros Ramazzotti and Tom Jones in November. Three concerts in a row, and even two, are too much for the home budget, so I have to pick one. Poor Eros did not stand the chance with such competition, but I'm still in dillemma - ZZ Top or Tom Jones?
All photos are from Il Divo concert