LAFC Draws Raucous Crowd For Banc Of California Stadium Opening
LAFC officially opened the 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium last night with a win over the Sounders, but it was "about more than a soccer match" or the home team, according to a front-page piece by Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. The match was the "unlocking of something completely different but long envisioned -- a new address for Los Angeles' favorite sport," catering to L.A.'s "most fervent fans, deep in the middle" of the city. For a couple of hours, it "was wonderful, Staples Center loud, Dodger Stadium crazy, the building beautiful and rowdy and perfect" (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). LAFC manager Bob Bradley said, "I've been lucky enough to see a lot of amazing places around the world. But the feeling inside that stadium today was incredible. Maybe somebody was looking down on us." In L.A., Kevin Baxter notes the stadium was "the star attraction" for most of last night. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "It's fantastic. It's really spectacular. It's just what the league needs" (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). The AP notes the "mostly-black-and-gold-clad fans serenaded LAFC throughout the first game." Several hours before kickoff, thousands of fans "gathered in Exposition Park outside the stadium and next-door to the venerable Coliseum"(AP, 4/30). In California, Jim Alexander notes the atmosphere "may already be the best of any team or any venue in this market." In a city with "iconic facilities, loyal fan bases and a knack for entertainment and spectacle, the new guys checked all the boxes on their first night." Garber said, “I’ve had so many moments where I try to remember to soak it in and remember where we were and try to pay attention to where we are right now. And today’s one of those great moments" (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 4/30).
GOING ALL THE WAY: The TIMES' Baxter noted Banc of California Stadium "has the amenities that reflect the hefty price tag." At $350M, the privately financed building is the "most expensive soccer-specific stadium in U.S. history," and its completion, a month ahead of schedule, "caps a wave of construction that has seen 18 of the 23 MLS teams either build, renovate or begin work on intimate soccer venues in the last 19 years." For fans who would "rather not sit at all, there is the North End grandstand, where the seats fold up and lock beyond a rail to create a European-style standing area that angles up from the field at an imposing 34-degree slant." The most visible element of the venue's design "are the canopies -- made of a plastic-based, semi-translucent material -- that cover each of the seating areas and are designed to keep the sun out and the noise in." But there "are gaps between the sections that allow for views of the downtown skyline, the distant mountains and, to the west, the peristyle end of the Coliseum with its Olympic cauldron" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29). In Seattle, Geoff Baker noted the 34-degree seating angles are "among the steepest" in MLS. Some fans "will be 12 feet from the pitch -- and others no farther than 135 feet away -- which should create a closed-in, hostile environment" for opponents (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/29).
CHANGING THE GAME: ESPN.com's Matt Pentz noted the stadium is "close to unique in that it is soccer-specific and within sight range of downtown skyscrapers" (ESPN.com, 4/27). The TIMES' Baxter noted in many ways the stadium has "come to define both the club and its complexities." The stadium is "modern and luxurious, but was built in the city’s gritty core." LAFC President & co-Owner Tom Penn said, “We are not a suburban team. We are not a beach team. We’re brick and mortar. We’re downtown L.A.” Garber said, "[LAFC Exec Chair & Owner] Peter Guber doesn’t get enough credit for what has come together here, from the first conversation in wiring together an ownership group. In a very quintessential Hollywood way, this stadium does feel like it is a place where dreams can be made. There are a lot of people that have been involved in this, but his pixie dust is spread throughout this building" (L.A. TIMES, 4/28). In N.Y., Kevin Draper noted the players' entrance to the field from the locker room "could pass for one of L.A.'s hip new nightspots." On one side, "separated by a series of velvet ropes, will be the Field Club, featuring a large bar surrounding a cube-shaped floor-to-ceiling light installation and reserved for the sort of people with enough money to buy a field suite." On the other side, "behind a glass wall -- Field Club patrons can look, but not enter -- is the sprawling Directors Lounge, a space carved out, with some difficulty given its size, for the 30 owners of LAFC, their families and their guests" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/28). MLSSOCCER.com's Alex Dwyer wrote under the header, "Pool Parties, Secret Rooms, Local Culture: 10 Things About LAFC's New Home" (MLSSOCCER.com, 4/23).
TWITTER REAX: LAFC investor Magic Johnson tweeted numerous photos and video from the opener: "The atmosphere was incredible!" FC Cincinnati President & GM Jeff Berding: "Checking out the coolest new @MLS stadium. Incredible venue @LAFC ... a great model to learn from, taking lots of notes & pics." Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd: "Outrageously cool stadium." ESPN's Arash Markazi: "The Sunset Deck at @BancStadium is my favorite stadium location in Los Angeles." SI's Planet Futbol feed: "LAFC knows how to open a stadium."