Home Is Where the Soccer Specific Stadium Is

As MLS turns 20 and matures into an actual major league sport in America, having home stadiums is becoming more important
by Katherine Rupp   |   Thursday, April 23, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

There are 20 teams – with another handful looking to be included – in Major League Soccer. The sport is also on the uptick with more and more people watching on TV, attending games and following matches. Attending soccer games is also quite a bit less expensive when compared to other professional sports in America. So with more growth in the United States and Canada, there should be more emphasis on enhancing game day experience. Part of the game day experience for supporters – and for players, staff, and owners of a club – is the home of the club.

The home of a club should reflect the heart of a club – the fans, those who are investing in the club like owners, and the players who play on the grass (occasionally turf) at that stadium for every home game.

A soccer club’s home should be special and that’s why soccer specific stadiums are so important in this day and age with soccer gaining and sustaining the popularity of younger generations as well as the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

There are 9 original clubs that started from the bottom in 1996 and now look where they are (save for a few): New York Red Bulls, Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, and Sporting Kansas City all have their own soccer specific stadiums along with Columbus kicking off the 2015 season as their first season with stadium naming rights (Mapfre Stadium) and San Jose finally getting their own home at Avaya Stadium.

However, there are two black eyes with the original clubs having iffy stadium situations: DC United and New England Revolution. With that said, although DC currently play at the dilapidated RFK Stadium that gives the team a ‘home field’ to play on, plans are continuing to roll on with the Buzzard Point stadium. With so many political upheavals, and quite a bit of wheeling and dealing in the DC area, the step taken forth for even committing money and land to the stadium should give DC United fans incredible pride for finally giving the team what they deserve.

Although the team doesn’t have the storied history as DC United, New York City FC also needs a home after they are finished with this inaugural season. There hasn’t been much talk recently of any advanced talks of where an NYCFC stadium would be located or if there are any conversations with local politicians as those are necessities. Without a home of its own, NYCFC will be more goaded than it already is – partly because many MLS fans didn’t believe New York deserved a second team without a team already in place but partly because the owners are the City Football Group (so Manchester City) and the Yankees. Since there are many MLS fans with a surly view of NYCFC, it’s imperative to have the front office staff – and MLS for that matter – to get the NYCFC stadium from fleeting thoughts into a reality.

On the contrary, two teams yet to come into MLS – the Atlanta team that will be introduced in 2017 and Minnesota United – have promising stadium situations. Atlanta, with great front office and people heading up the marketing with former US international Carlos Bocanegra on staff, will play in the New Atlanta Stadium (which is currently the working title for the stadium right now). The nearly $1.5 billion stadium is set to open in time for the 2017 NFL and MLS seasons. From different reports, the mood set from the Atlanta stadium should be like being in Seattle at CenturyLink Field.

Another team set to make its debut in MLS in 2017 (or possibly 2018) is Minnesota United FC. Although they currently play at a field of their own at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota, the area and seating – among others – are not conducive to a Major League Soccer team. Because Blaine is a northern suburb, a lot of families who live close are able to attend games but the ideal demographic for Minnesota United is young adults. Additionally, there are many cultural sects in the Twin Cities area but do not necessarily live or work in the northern suburbs.

Therefore, to attain a trifecta of millennials, multigenerational families, and multicultural fans, a stadium would need to be built downtown. And that’s just what the Minnesota United ownership wants. However, what’s getting in the way is local politics because of the recent development of the Minnesota Gophers football stadium, Target Field for the Twins, and the monstrosity that will be the Minnesota Vikings stadium, in addition to refurbishing Target Center where the Timberwolves play. If all goes to plan that favors Minnesota United, a downtown stadium near where the Minneapolis Farmers Market is located, to reinvigorate the somewhat downtrodden area would be the most ideal.

From Minnesota to Atlanta and DC and New England to New York City, there are many stadiums that need to be built because the product on the field needs to match the product that fans step into. Having a well built home that’s soccer specific is important to MLS teams and to the increasing quality and popularity of soccer in the US. If MLS continues to get more eyes on the games and more attention to the teams, it can only help with realizing how important a soccer specific stadium home is vital to the success of soccer in the US.

Katherine RUPP

Nationality:
USA
College:
Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.
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