Lumpini Stadium has been a landmark of Muay Thai since it was first built in 1956. As the most prestigious place to fight in the world, it has been the dream of many fighters to one day make it to that ring. When it held its last event on February 7th this year, many were sad to see it close its doors. It was forced to do so after its lease ran out and was not renewed by the Crown Property Bureau. The header photo shows it being torn down recently. Since it had such a prime location, I imagine that it will make way for another condominium, hotel, shopping mall or something of the like. A new, revamped Lumpini Stadium now stands on Ramintra Road.
The closure of the original Lumpini Stadium marked the end of an era, and was a sad occasion for many in the sport. However, the opening of the new one could present a positive change and growth for Muay Thai. Although we’ll all look back on the original stadium with fond memories, many more will be made in the new one. It’s not to say that we must let go of traditions and cultural history, but that we should embrace the opportunity for growth. Muay Thai is evolving worldwide and the shiny new stadium symbolises that. At the same time, I’m not fond of seeing promotions that stray from the roots of the sport with alterations such as changing the rules, cutting fights to only three rounds, and omitting the waikru ram muay. Last night, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu had to fight in a cage rather than a ring, which she was understandably unhappy about. She talked about it in a video update, posted just before the fight, describing it as “a big change, one that’s not headed in a direction that I like”. I have to agree with her.
Lots of promotions are making these changes in a bid to increase entertainment value, but for me, they have the opposite effect. While gimmicks like these can often be a bastardization of the sport, the new Lumpinee Stadium is a figure of how much the sport has grown. The new stadium stands as a display of a wave of investment in the sport. While the old stadium had much-loved character and grit, the new one projects a more modern representation of the sport and the direction in which it’s headed.
On Friday 4th April, I went to the new Lumpini Stadium for the first time. It’s strikingly different from its predecessor. Its sleek, modern design made quite a change from the rickety, old building that I was so used to. Before I’d even emerged from my taxi, I was greeted by P’Aor, a lady who works at the stadium. She quickly issued me with my ticket (for which I paid a hefty 2,000b) and escorted me to my ringside seat. I usually wouldn’t sit ringside but on this occasion, a friend of mine was fighting, so I wanted to be as close to his corner as possible. I arrived at around 6pm, just as the opening bouts were starting.
I went alone, and it was nice to just sit and take it all in. I bumped into a previous opponent of mine, Nong New Sitkrupaew, who I fought in my first and fourth fights. We exchanged hellos and she told me that she was there to watch a friend of hers, who was fighting in the first bout. After she left, I went back to admiring the fights, people-watching and eavesdropping on the conversations of rowdy spectators behind me. The main event that night was Dechsakda Sit. Songpeenong vs. E.T Petchsomnueg but before that was Cherry Sit. Dab Aun vs. Dech Udom Ao. Boonchuay. This was also my favourite fight of the night. See below for the video.
One of the main concerns that I’ve heard from those who are wary about the new stadium is that it doesn’t have the same atmosphere as the original. Skeptics worried that the new stadium would lack the character that was so well-loved about the first one. While the new stadium will never be quite the same, it’s not lacking in atmosphere. It’s has been designed in such a way that the acoustics are fantastic. A friend of mine who fought on the stadium’s opening event had previously told me that it felt like being in a bowl, and I could see exactly what he meant. It actually seems a little small on the inside, but once the fights are underway and the crowd get going, the echo of the cheers make it feel much bigger than it actually is.
Melissa Ray of Muay Thai on the Brain wrote a review of her experience of the stadium, as did Rob Cox of Muay Thai Focus. They both give further insights into the stadium, both also mentioning that one undeniable difference between the new and the old stadium is the temperature. I have to agree, it is rather chilly. Be sure to take a jacket when you go, as the extreme air-con gets a little too much after a while. Lumpini Stadium’s official website describes the new stadium as ‘a building with modern style, through design and use of technology in modern construction’. It also boasts new and improved facilities, including modern lighting, sound systems and LED displays, a capacity of over 5,000 and a parking capacity of over 300. It mentions that there are restaurants and massage shops available, although I didn’t explore those myself. I was only there for the fights.
While it’s bittersweet that the original, historic Lumpini Stadium is now gone, the new one actually surpassed my expectations. I wonder what other changes it will make way for in the sport.
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This gets me excited to go to the new Lumpinee stadium and check it out! Unfortunately I never got the chance to go to the old one, but it’s good to know that they did things right at the new stadium. Thanks for the insight as always Emma!
Nice article, a little biased and non-objective, but I was at the new Lumpini several times, and I do not agree with the opinion stated in this article. You will see that in the future as today, foreifners will be few, Thai’s don’t come in masses like before. Radjadamnern has becone the Mecca of Muay Thai. Ask the Thai’s themselves, not the obes selling you the tickets 🙂 Ask the foreign regulars, they will in a majority tell you the opposite of a bright future for the new Lumpini.
I love it when tough fighters wear bows on their shorts.
Thanks for this write-up. I went to closing night at Old Lumpinee and just went to see my first fight at New Lumpinee last week. Totally different atmospheres. I miss the Old Lumpinee a lot but to be fair, the new one is far nicer and more “user-friendly.” And yes, it got cold in there!
Thanks for the good links to Melissa Ray, Rob Cox, and Sylvie! As always, love your blog.
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