Importance of Stadium Design

The Scorpions are building their new stadium and it's a masterful design for soccer. Meanwhile for the Virginia Cavalry, it's quite the opposite
by Chris Hockman   |   Thursday, March 21, 2013

Defending The Fort - column on San Antonio Scorpions (SASFC) & the San Antonio soccer scene.

The thing that excites San Antonio Scorpions fans the most ahead of the 2013 NASL season is Toyota Field, the team’s new stadium.

The development of soccer in this country has been phenomenal from Columbus Crew Stadium being completed to 2nd division sides building soccer-specific stadiums (SSS). At this stage all the NASL teams but Tampa Bay, FC Edmonton and New York Cosmos play in a SSS.

What has been interesting is the variety of new stadia that are being built by NASL teams, and the Scorpions construction is especially impressive.

But even teams that do not have a SSS can make things work, and all these factors make the Virginia Cavalry's stadium design all the more disappointing. While this is a brand new stadium and will be a top shelf facility, it is completely inappropriate for soccer.

The stadium will be brand new and built for the Cavalry, but also for the minor league baseball team, the Loudoun Hounds. It is clear from any angle you look at the stadium who the primary tenant is, and it's the baseball team.

Without even looking at the internal design of the stadium, it's clear the Cavalry are considered secondary, as the baseball team is featured prominently at the stadium, while there is no mention of the Cavalry.

It gets even worse upon entering the stadium. It's not just the shape of the stadium, which is horribly unaccommodating for soccer. But even the seating layout will have a huge section of seats facing away from the soccer pitch due to the baseball design.

It would be easy to say that baseball stadiums just don't accommodate soccer and that's certainly part of it. The area is not ideal but it's not a permanent arrangement, whereas this new Cavalry stadium will be.

And it's not just because it is multi-use, which can be done very well, as MLS has shown over the years. Multi-use stadiums are almost mandatory at this level if the club is to get a return on their investment. Even a baseball stadium can work as multi-use, as was shown by Sydney during the 2000 Olympics.

Sydney may not be what comes to your mind when you think of baseball, but what the city did in 2000 was prove that a baseball stadium can be multi-purpose. The Sydney Showground, as it is now called, has hosted a significant number of rugby matches, requiring similar field dimensions to soccer. What Sydney did was build a circular stadium and, in doing so, created a venue that could host almost anything.

While the Virginia owners will argue that in order to accommodate both teams they had to build a baseball stadium, Sydney proves that's not true – you would just have to build a circular (or oval) stadium.

The issue in that is that it requires a significant shift in stadium design thinking. In Australia, a circular stadium is not unusual, as cricket and Australian Rules football both use this type of stadium. But in America, there isn't that market. But just because something is different does not make it wrong, and perhaps circular stadiums are the way forward for multi-use facilities.

Fans in San Antonio can be glad that the Scorpions are the main tenants of Toyota Field for 2013 and have a stadium that has been designed solely for them.

While it is true that Toyota Field will need to host other events in order to make money, one thing is sure: The Scorpions come first, a situation that even some MLS teams would love.

Chris HOCKMAN

Nationality:
Australia
College:
Univ W. Sydney & Youthworks Coll.
Club Domestic:
Houston Dynamo, San Antonio Scorpions, Austin Aztex
Club Foreign:
Central Coast Mariners
Originally from Australia found football (or soccer as you Yanks call it) a great connection in a new country. Freelance writer since 2005 covering Australian and US Soccer. Based out of San Antonio but can regularly be seen in Houston, Austin and Dallas.
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