MLS 101: Stadiums
Today, BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo) announced that the new BC Place stadium will open its doors on September 30, 2011. The new stadium will without a doubt be one of the most spectacular theatres for sport in North America - and Whitecaps FC fans from years past will surely be looking forward to returning, and bringing great memories of our old, new home.
Across Major League Soccer in recent years, teams are investing in developing new stadiums. Just last week, Houston Dynamo unveiled the design of the new Dynamo Stadium, which is set to open in 2012. In Harrison, New Jersey, Red Bull Arena opened last season to much fanfare and will play host the 2011 MLS All-Star Game.
Stadiums can be intimidating for the visiting team or lift the home team to welcome victories. I know from experience what a home crowd can do to a visiting player, how walking into a sold-out stadium can intimidate you and put you on the back foot from the opening whistle.
For me, the most daunting place to play was Mexico City's Azteca Stadium - the home of the Mexican national team. It is said to have a capacity of 105,000, but when you walk onto the field, it seems like there are a lot more people packed inside. The changing rooms are located below the field and you have to walk up some stairs to where the trap doors would be opened for you to go through. One player described the noise as if you were waiting below, while a million bees were buzzing above you. You then walked up onto the pitch to an almighty roar from the 100,000-plus Mexican fans.
I was reminiscing with Bobby Lenarduzzi in training camp here in Arizona, and we got onto the subject of playing at the old Empire Stadium. Empire was by no means the most beautiful of stadiums, but when you stepped on the field on a sunny day and could see the mountains and the fans starting to rock the place, it really lifted us to some memorable victories over the years.
Our director of soccer operations, Tommy Soehn, alluded to me that when he was coaching D.C. United to MLS titles at Washington's RFK Stadium, they had shocks under the stands, so when the fans started jumping, the stands would shake.
It’s my belief that Empire Field - with all its history - will be a 12th man when we start our MLS season at home on Saturday, March 19. Also, our move into a more intimate stadium at BC Place gives us every chance to make our home pitch a real fortress.