Aaaaaaah! The Accor Arena! Maybe you’re one of its die-hard fans who’s been in the crowd since the beginning. Maybe the Accor Arena was where you saw your first concert, or watched Novak Djokovic win his 5th Rolex Masters Paris, or maybe you pass it every day on your way to work. But do you really know the Accor Arena inside out?
Ten Things to Know About the Accor Arena
Here’s a list of 10 things to know about the Accor Arena
- #1 Genesis
- #2 The first gig
- #3 Architecture
- #4 A new era
- #5 The icing on the cake
- #6 See you on the court
- #7 What’s in a name...
- #8 A first for France
- #9 Yes, chef
- #10 A proprietary event
The venue Paris had always been waiting for! The venue that, in the old days, was the appropriately named Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy (POPB) exploded onto the scene on 3 February 1984, seemingly screaming that it was here to be France’s top sporting venue. The spectacular new venue was the result of an ambitious project: to give France an indoor venue that could host the biggest sporting competitions and the hottest artists.Above, you can see Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, visiting the gargantuan building site for what would become the world’s 5th biggest arena, inspecting the (almost) finished work at what is now the Accor Arena. On the banks of the Seine in the heart of the Bercy neighbourhood in Paris’ 12th district, the legendary Parisian arena was built atop the ruins of a wine merchant market. It is an iconic, avant-garde arena that changed the landscape of French entertainment forever.
Did you miss the early days of the Accor Arena? Well, you probably aren’t the only one, especially if you weren’t even born back then! We’ll fill you in. On 29 February 1984, the Scorpions played the inaugural gig that saw the major new arena burst onto the Parisian entertainment scene. Klaus, Matthias, Rudolf and the rest of the band were playing top of bill, and emerged onto the stage for a hedonistic celebration of their latest album, Love at First Sting. Actually, we’re fibbing: the very first band to play on stage at the Accor Arena wasn’t Scorpions at all! Nope! It was Mama's Boys, a Northern Irish hard rock group, and Scorpion’s warm-up act. A few minutes after they concluded their set, the lights went out, a thick cloud of smoke formed and... blackout! All pure showmanship, of course, to signal Scorpion’s thunderous arrival. That night, lead singer Klaus Meine lost his voice, giving rise to the first great moment of collective goosebumps in the Arena, when the crowd began to sing, in unison and at the top of their voices, the lyrics to one of Scorpion’s greatest hits: "Always somewheeeere, miss youuu where I've beennnn”. With the golden age of rock in full swing and in front of a jubilant 10,000-strong crowd, the German hard rockers put on a sensational show that would go down in the history of both the venue and the rock music scene.
A pyramid silhouette adorned with a blue metal lattice, and a metal, glass, and concrete structure with turfed slopes: the Accor Arena is instantly recognisable! Daring and iconic from the moment its design was first sketched, the most modern sporting arena also stands out through its avant-garde architecture, peerless modularity, and location in East Paris. The venue, revolutionary when it was designed and now an iconic Parisian fixture, was designed by a team of three architects: Andrault, Parat & Guvan. The lucky winners of an architectural competition, the brilliant team was chosen for their proposal that was ambitious, sustainable, and a positive addition to the Bercy site that had long been left to ruin. 10 cranes, a lot of dust, and a few excavations later, and the unique octagon on the corner of the Boulevard de Bercy secured a place in the world’s top 5 arenas. It is the only building in the world whose façades, inclining at a precise angle of 42.5°, were covered in natural turf. Did you know? The mystery is solved: that is indeed real grass!
A facelift, new surroundings, and a new name: the venue’s modernisation work in 2015 didn’t do things by halves! The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy was renamed the AccorHotels Arena, becoming the Accor Arena a few years later. A more welcoming, more modern venue, with simplified access and visitor flows, and one that was now the top venue in France for the biggest international tours. So what’s new? Lots of light thanks to a vast glass roof, and majestic wood that ripples overhead. The Arena opens out onto the street, and it can now hold 20,300 spectators, compared to the previous 17,000. Also, it’s goodbye to the iconic red seats... and hello to the new grey ones that help improve the Arena’s acoustics. All capped off by some amazing modularity, for a venue that can switch between 30 different configurations. Soon, the Arena will open up to the local neighbourhood, and to all of Paris, with ticketless access (when events aren’t on) to a concert venue that also serves as a real space for living and experiencing the city, and a destination in its own right... Madison Square Garden had better watch out!
To everyone’s amazement, including the locals, there is indeed an ice rink open all year inside the arena! The rink is home to the famous Français Volants ice hockey club, and is open to all ice hockey jocks and skating aficionados. With its special entrance from the Quai de Bercy via a new pedestrian footbridge that skirts the building, Paris’ sportiest ice rink boasts 1500m² of skateable ice! The “best ice in the Greater Paris region” is sure to delight anyone who likes to get a skate on, and even those who spend more time one their backsides or desperately clutching the barriers... Never forget that the main thing is to learn how to look good while falling over!
Talking dunks! On 24 January 2020, the iconic NBA shook the court at the Accor Arena in its first official regular season match in France! From the stands, a rapturous crowd witnessed a game for the ages, broadcast worldwide, with a block party vibe equal to any seen in the States. No joke! The Arena and basketball have shared a special bond for over 35 years now. This historic temple to basketball has hosted NBA events in Paris since 1991 and the French Basketball Cup since 1998, and every year since 2002 the NBA All Star Game has taken over the Main Hall for an elite match in front of a sell-out crowd. In 2010, the cream of European basketball were competing in the Euroleague and, for the fourth time in the event’s history, the Final Four faced off in the French capital! And the list goes on… get cracking! The Arena, France’s biggest basketball playground, will host the basketball competition at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Just like you, we can’t wait to be there!
"POPB", "Bercy", "AccorHotels Arena", "AHA", "Accor Arena"… So which is it? Feeling lost? Okay, we’ll get you clued up! Opened in 1984, the legendary arena has changed name on several occasions. It’s first Sunday name? Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, or POPB to its friends. Much later, following its refurbishment in 2015, the venue changed name to become the AccorHotels Arena thanks to its major, official title sponsor. So what exactly is a “title sponsor”? A title sponsor is a sponsor organisation or brand that “gives” its name to a sporting and/or cultural venue (stadium, venue, tournament, etc.) for a contractually agreed period. In this case, it’s the prestigious hotel group, Accor (formerly AccorHotels), that is lending its name to the Parisian venue. In 2020, the AccorHotels Arena became the Accor Arena when its title sponsor itself changed name to become, simply: Accor (Group).
Ding! Ding! Round 1! On 10 October 2020, the Accor Arena exploded with testosterone. In the centre of the Main Hall was no mere boxing ring, but a genuine octagon (an 8-sided cage) within which Mixed Martial Art (MMA) fighters would do battle. Only recently made legal in France, under the stewardship of the French Boxing Federation (FFB), the first major MMA event in France was organised by Bellator MMA, an international body. Dozens of kicks, just as many uppercuts, and one KO later, and the major sporting event had kept all of its promises! Thanks to who? To all the great champions of the sport who came to put on a show over the course of 13 fights: the famous French fighter, Cheick Kongo, alongside Til Johnson, Michael "Venom" Page, and Ross Houston, to name but a few. It was a big first in France!
We aren’t really sure how to describe this arena-restaurant-foodtruck-living space, so we’ll tell you about the culinary experience that awaits inside, instead. 6.45pm, e-billet on your smartphone, in full fan mode, and all ready to walk into the Accor Arena. Security checks behind you, wooden framework rippling overhead, and an exciting buzz all around... That’s it! You made it inside the temple of live events! But one question is gnawing away at you... “What’s there to eat before the show starts?” Well, you’ve got a number of options: organic, vegetarian, or pure carnivore; standing or at a table: the hardest part is deciding what to have! Just now, we fancy the classic burger served at Showtime (the Accor Arena’s own neo-bistro). And it’s not just any old burger, it’s the Rolls Royce of burgers, made fresh to order! Can you hear it? The Main Hall is calling you! Follow the crowd and feel the buzz of an unforgettable show.
It’s been a very long time since the Accor Arena produced its own events: it organises them, hosts them, and inspires them, but the Arena never owns them. The Accor Arena, though, has made a big decision! To return to the intrepid spirit of the original project, when the iconic Parisian venue organised its own spectacular and innovative events. How? By launching Paris’ own indoor heavy metal festival in the very near future Storm the Arena! A new, unmissable annual event dedicated entirely to hard rock in all its forms, Storm the Arena will see the Arena completely transformed, serving up an unrivalled experience and immersing visitors in a new temple to all things metal, right in the heart of the French capital. With this first proprietary event, Paris’ biggest indoor venue, in partnership with Live Nation, is writing a new chapter in its history.