What Has Berlin Tempelhof Airport Been Used For Since Closing?

Since the turn of the century, the German capital of Berlin has had a complicated relationship with its various airports. This culminated last year with the heavily delayed opening of the city’s new Brandenburg Airport (BER). In an immediate sense, this new facility replaced the existing Schönefeld (SXF) and Tegel (TXL) airports. However, in 2008, another closure took place. Let’s take a look at the many uses of Tempelhof (THF) Airport.

Berlin Tempelhof Airport
The former Berlin Tempelhof Airport as seen from above in 2016. Photo: Avda via Wikimedia Commons

Recreation

Along with London Croydon and Paris Le Bourget, Berlin Tempelhof, which opened in 1923, is considered one of Europe’s most iconic pre-Second World War airports. It was known for its huge horseshoe-shaped terminal building, which dominated a corner of the site. It closed as a commercial airport in 2008, having served the German capital for 85 years.

This left a significant area of land available for use, and, the following year, the authorities announced their plans for the site. They decided that, in 2010, the city would re-open the site as an urban park and recreational area named Tempelhofer Feld (‘Tempelhof Field’).

According to thelocal.de, €60 million ($71.5 million) was set aside for a seven-year development program on the site, along with a €1.6 million ($1.9 million) annual maintenance and security budget. The park re-opened in May 2010, and has allowed locals and tourists to partake in various leisure activities, including mini-golf on the former apron!

Berlin Tempelhof Apron
Visitors can play mini-golf and grab a drink on the airport’s apron, with its markings still clearly visible. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

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Sport

The site of the former Berlin Tempelhof Airport also offers plenty of space for organized sporting events. For example, the location has been used as a preparation area for runners ahead of their participation in the Berlin Marathon. However, arguably the most notable use of Tempelhof in the domain of professional sport is as a race track.

In 2015, the Tempelhof Airport Street Circuit hosted the inaugural Berlin ePrix, a race in Formula E, the FIA’s single-seat electric motorsport championship. The track twists and turns for around 2.5 km / 1.5 miles (depending on the exact layout), and even runs under the former terminal building’s canopy. It has hosted races in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Formula E Berlin Tempelhof Airport Getty
The former airport site hosted its first Formula E race in 2015. Photo: Getty Images

Humanitarian causes

Germany played a key role in the refugee crisis of the mid to late 2010s, with the country processing considerably more asylum applications than its European neighbors. In order to help provide sufficient accommodation for those arriving from countries like Syria, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, the state government decided to use the airport in these efforts.

Specifically, thelocal.de reports that, in September 2015, Berlin’s mayor announced one of Tempelhof’s former hangars would house some of these refugees. In the end, it is thought that over 1,200 refugees stayed in two hangars on the site of the former airport. During this time, public access to the site as a recreational area remained unaffected.

Did you ever fly to or from Berlin Tempelhof Airport? Have you visited the site since its closure, and, if so, for what purpose? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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