MLS ’12 Preview – Soccer Specific Stadiums Soaring

Artistic Rendering of BBVA Compass Stadium, Opening in May 2012

When you started to follow Major League Soccer for the first time in 1996, one of your enduring memories was visiting stadiums that were primarily used for the National Football League or College Football. But when Lamar Hunt used his own money to create the first ever soccer specific stadium for MLS, you felt that a change was coming.

As we look at the 2012 season, most MLS teams are the primary tenants for their current venues. Last night, MLS received another boost in this realm, and it happened for a team whose tumultuous past was influenced directly by their inability to secure a modern venue. But the San Jose Planning Commission gave a sweeping six votes for to nil to allow the San Jose Earthquakes to break ground and build the next great stadium in the history of the sport in the United States.

Since Columbus Crew Stadium was opened on May 15th, 1999, stadiums designed for Major League Soccer have been a priority, especially after the arrival of Commissioner Don Garber. The list has grown in ways that Hunt could only dream of back in the infancy of the league: The Home Depot Center, FC Dallas Stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park), Toyota Park, BMO Field, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Rio Tinto Stadium, Red Bull Arena, PPL Park, and Livestrong Sporting Park.

In terms of this season, opening in downtown Houston will be BBVA Compass Stadium, as the finishing touches are being made on this great new park in the heart of the city. Let’s also not forget the refurbishment project up in Montreal as Stade Saputo will be expanding their capacity to meet MLS requirements. These stadiums have presented a financial benefit to the teams, giving them facilities that can draw new fans due to their modern qualities without the enormous lease costs from the mammoth NFL and NCAA stadiums.

For the Dynamo, a brand new stadium has been a long sought after goal which will become reality on May 12 of this year. Of course they were the first edition of an MLS team in San Jose, initially as the Clash and then as the Earthquakes. But Anschutz Entertainment Group tired of the process to secure building permits in the northern California city, and moved the team to the Gulf Coast. Finally for the newest generation of the Earthquakes and their supporters, a replacement for the antiquated Buck Shaw Stadium is closer to reality.

Located near the San Jose Airport, it sounded like this would be a fantastic idea for visiting sides to make a short trip and prepare for their match against the Earthquakes. But as always with these new Soccer Stadium projects, there was some apprehension. That pushback came from some local residents who live near the airport, creating a group set against the stadium opening in their neighborhood. Their main concern was the possible harmful noise coming from the drums being beaten by the supporters group. The Council finally shot that protest down.

If these people live near an airport, and also have freight trains going by at night blowing their horns, shouldn’t they complain about that instead of worrying about a stadium filled with soccer fans? Those who were opposed to the idea wanted a study reopened to measure noise, but that idea was dismissed.

Many Earthquakes supporters filled the hall and had their chance to show their support for the new stadium along with owner Lew Wolff and MLS President Mark Abbott. After all that was said and displayed, the council finally voted and agreed to allow the new stadium to be built. There was an appeal from the opposition, but that was denied.

So after all of the soccer-related heartache that has been going on for the last several years in the San Jose area, the supporters of this club can now celebrate the possible final year at Buck Shaw as the club is hoping they will start in 2013.

Finally another crown jewel of a stadium will be built and represent the league, another stadium that will represent home field advantage for our National Team to compete in a friendly, Gold Cup or during World Cup Qualifying. With BBVA Compass Stadium, Stade Saputo, and the new park being planned in Silicon Valley, this is a fabulous time for fans of San Jose, Major League Soccer, and our National Teams.

33 Responses to MLS ’12 Preview – Soccer Specific Stadiums Soaring

  1. CTBlues says:

    Now the only two left homeless are DC and New England.

    • MrTuktoyaktuk says:

      I’d say the Revs situation is more like Seattle. They are in a
      ownership group facility that is multi-function. Their home may
      suck but it is a home, unlike DCU – in unending limbo land over
      their future at RFK. If anything Chivas USA, as a 2nd priority
      tenant of HDC, should be on that list.

  2. MrTuktoyaktuk says:

    At $60M, I don’t know if I would say crown jewel. It’s going to be
    no frills to be sure. In any case, the main thing is it is a
    facility that the team controls. That’s good for the fans and good
    for the league.

    • GalaxyScum says:

      It may be no frills but at least it’s not buck shaw. Buck shaw is
      barely even a college stadium it’s more of a glorified high school
      stadium. As far as frills, it is not without them: the Epicenter
      will have a better terrace/supporters section behind the goal than
      exists in Colorado, Dallas, or Columbus. It also will have some
      unique big-money luxury suites to sell to the silicon valley
      corporate elite. It will also have a great roof (this is a big plus
      b/c many MLS SSS’s do not have roofs or just have mini-roofs that
      only cover a tiny section of the stands). That is pretty good
      considering it’s 100% privately financed.

  3. Charles says:

    Funny how how Seattle has the best stadium by a long shot, it was
    built for soccer, but NEVER gets listed. Since day 1 ( and the
    Sounders were the first major event there ) I have thought I can’t
    believe we have a $500 million stadium for the Sounders. Sure it is
    shared, but it fits better for soccer than for football in the good

  4. A. Ruiz says:

    Big Whoop! Seattle wasn’t the first to design an NFL stadium
    w/soccer in mind. Soldier Field was also renovated w/Soccer in
    mind. At the time the Fire were tenants and Soldier Field hosts
    lots of sold out soccer exhibitions. Gold cup. WCQ, and etc.

    • Charles says:

      Well then Soldier Field should be mentioned too, if it were the
      best stadium in MLS………………………..It isn’t however,
      as it isn’t even a stadium in MLS……………..Seattle’s stadium
      was build for football, both kinds, and IS the best stadium in MLS.

  5. Jeff says:

    Seattle has plastic grass. Its actually the worst field surface for
    soccer. The game is hardly the same played on plastic. Ask soccer
    players what they would rather play on. Not plastic. Such
    artificial surfaces put extra strain on knees, ankles and lower
    back. What Seattle has is a good coach and fan base. But stadium??
    200 million dollar Red Bull Arena is certainly near or at the top.

  6. Alex says:

    why are we talking about NFL stadiums? dont tell me theres
    nostalgia. about centerlink field (SSFC home ‘turf’ pun intended)
    it has plastic grass which is horrible, both for players and on tv.
    and second its not a soccer stadium. yea it was built with soccer
    in mind but that doesnt mean its the best. when a team plays second
    fiddle to a NFL team than that doesnt have a good look on SSFC. i
    know they have a good realationship with Seahawks but there should
    be a stadium tailored for Sounders. theres no reason they cant
    build a 35k stadium easy. (Cosmos wants to build a 30 k stadium
    minimum) but centerlink field is american football first, soccer
    second. that doesnt fly well with me, thus doesnt make it the best
    soccer stadium. IMO Red Bull arena, Sporting park and Saputo stade
    are the best. id say Jeld Wen stadium too but something about those
    hipsters i just dont like

    • Michael says:

      “theres no reason they cant build a 35k stadium easy.” There’s
      plenty of reasons, but I’ll name three: 1. Pizza Hut Park 2. Toyota
      Park 3. Gillette Stadium Three shining examples of how attendance
      suffers when you have to build your stadium out of the city, which
      is where any “easy” SSS would have to go “in” Seattle. There’s
      simply nowhere to plunk one down in the city limits at less than a
      nightmarish cost. Renton is the best-case scenario, and that’s a
      good 20 minutes from both the city itself (1/2 hour during rush
      hour before weeknight matches) and from its most populous suburbs.
      Hell, San Jose is making their stadium cheap and small because it’s
      in San Jose, and it’s in San Jose because there’s nowhere to build
      for even a remotely reasonable cost in San Francisco.

    • Heimdall says:

      San Jose’s stadium will cost 60M and will seat 18k and while it
      will be nice, it will be built with economics in mind. But kudos SJ
      fans, this is well overdue, but does it really make sense for the
      Sounders to spend at least 120 million for a 40k in a much less
      centralized area when the turf does not seem to diminish the zeal
      of Sounder fans? Seahawks Stadium has good sightlines for a sizable
      soccer field and there are no NFL markings during games. The
      Seahawks have had to make concessions as well. The endzones aren’t
      deeply colored and the crown on the field is a soccer crown and not
      a higher NFL sized crown. Sure it might be worth moving if
      attendance falls in the 15k range for the foreseeable future but
      the grass complaint is like whining about one’s supermodel
      girlfriend because she is too tall. The field turf does need
      replacing and will be replaced but the only player I’ve heard that
      won’t play on it is Thierry Henry and that suits me fine. The last
      catastrophic injury in the stadium was Conor Casey and while I
      wouldn’t want that to happen to anyone, if it had to happen, I’m
      glad it happened to someone on the other team. Oh yeah, it happened
      on grass.

    • Charles says:

      Ummm 35000 would barely handle the season ticket holders. Sounders
      should be around 40k this year.

  7. Danwolf says:

    Well now matter what Columbus Crew Stadium is the Fenway Park or
    Soldier Field of MLS,

  8. Daniel Nieves says:

    Too bad Crew Stadium is barely half full on game days, have they
    ever had an avg for the season of more than 15,000 fans? According
    to Wikipedia, NO! Not sure a team should have been put there. Win a
    title and still can’t draw consistent fans. Good thing your title
    game was at HDC, who knows whether you would of sold out or not.

    • Danwolf says:

      You are talking about the first MLS team to ever sell over 10,000
      season tickets. The team that built the first Soccer Specific
      Stadium. The reason for Last season was that the fans were still
      pissed about losing GBS and Hejduk.

      • Daniel Nieves says:

        fact of the matter is; wish they could draw consistently over
        15,000 and they don’t. 10,000 season tickets that’s great, but if
        not much more come after those die hard fans then you still have
        almost a half empty stadium. Portland, Seattle and perhaps Philly
        have started a standard in not only numbers but with the level of
        enthusiasm amongst it’s fans. The rest of the league needs to catch
        up and keep pace. As a Galaxy fan, we have the numbers; but L.A.
        fans can be too laid back and as a whole I wish we could reach that
        level of enthusiasm that Angels City Brigade/Riot Squad (Galaxy
        supporter groups) bring to our HDC every game.

    • Jeff says:

      The Crew organization is having a very good off season and is
      addressing attendance issues. They just landed a new Jersey Sponsor
      with Barbasol which will run for the next 5 years. In addition they
      have a new TV contract with Fox Sports Ohio and will potentially
      reach several million more viewers (from 1.5 to 5.7). These are
      huge deals that will spark additional interest, more sponsership
      and grow the fan base. The Crew established an aggressive ticket
      sales campaign that started last fall. They have surpassed last
      years season ticket sales. There is more buzz and excitement this
      off season than in recent years. Crew stadium is still a great
      venue to watch soccer and the turf (real stuff) is managed
      extremely well.

      • Daniel Nieves says:

        This is good to hear, Jeff. I wasn’t writing to simply “bag” on the
        Crew, just pointing out their attendance issue. I hope they can
        boost those numbers up. Not only am I a fan of the Galaxy, but I’m
        a fan of the league and I’m rooting for you guys. Good Luck on the
        upcoming season.

  9. Ben says:

    I love the ”Toyota Pak” in Chicago, too bad the stadium is alway

  10. Just sayin' says:

    Stadiums could be empty for several reasons. Downtown stadiums are
    expensive to build and difficult to authorize, so they’re built out
    in the burbs. This limits some fans from attending. Stadiums may
    also be empty (at least in Ohio) because people are BROKE. Season
    tickets equates to disposable income and that’s in short supply
    these days. Finally, I think some teams suffer from a severe lack
    of effective marketing, resulting in low awareness and low
    attendance, especially from walk-up attendance. If each team signed
    a DP with a cultural / ethnic connection to the city in which he
    played, that might help boost attendance but again that is only
    temporary and again it requires money. I have read many, many
    Euro/SA fans who say that if MLS would sign players from their
    respective country, they would go for those sole reasons. Not the
    best way to boost attendance but one way. Funny how it always comes
    down to money. God I hate money. Now if I can just get that stadium
    built in Boston……

  11. Ben says:

    You made some valid points. I agree about the fact that teams
    should signed a DP with a cultural / ethnic connection, if you take
    the case of the Chicago Fire, a DP from Poland would really help
    the attendance issue, I mean Chicago has the songest largest Polish
    population after Warsaw… Here in Montreal, an Italian DP would
    really help, the Owner is Italian and Montreal have a huge ethnic
    Italian population.

  12. Spacedog says:

    I have to admit, I never thought that MLS would develop this
    quickly. It is discouraging however to reside in the New York area
    and sit amongst 7,000 empty seats a game. Although the atmosphere
    is still better than Giants Stadium. As some of us await the return
    of the New York Cosmos we have to endure attending matches over in
    Harrison, New Jersey half heartedly supporting a club that is an
    advertisement for a beverage favored by Austrian caffeine junkies .
    That being said it could be worse, I could be a Masshole who’s only
    footy fix is in Foxboro.

  13. Spacedog says:

    By the way, what is with the open end in the artists renditions of
    the new San Jose stadium? It looks terribly amateur.

  14. Roger Pro/Rel says:

    Something that I do not understand is… There are at least a few
    cities/investors willing to invest major dollars (+40 mil) get to
    MLS………..What if they create a new league, save A LOT of money
    and invest it in their teams/stadia instead of giving it to the
    cartel????……………….with the lack of credibility of MLS by
    soccer fans all around the nation, they would be more relevant than
    MLS in no time!!………multiply +40mil by the potential
    investors, can you imagine what the potential of the new league
    would be??…………..question # 2 : Why haven’t the NASL thought
    about it and try to atract them? Why doesn’t NASL pull the trigger
    and go pro/rel???? MLS has been taking their best teams without any
    consideration of them anyways!……………….What would happen
    if NASL announces, league is open to any cities/investors that
    meets certain criteria, once we have more than x teams we will
    implement promotion and relegation………………I do understand
    why MLS will never implement pro/rel, just look at their leaders
    and find out who their buddies are…………….What I do not
    understand is why NASL (which is against the ropes now) do not do

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