With the MLS season underway, excitement is building for the debut of Los Angeles FC’s Banc of California Stadium.
Fans have to wait just a few more weeks.
Somewhat unfortunately for LAFC, the new stadium won’t be ready until the seventh game of the season – they’ll play their first six games on the road to accommodate completion. But when it’s ready, it’s sure to impress.
The new MLS club will play its first home game at Banc of California Stadium on April 29 against the Seattle Sounders, a team it beat 1-0 in its season and franchise opening game.
The new $350 million, 22,000-seat stadium has been the subject of significant attention here (it was #9 in our Best of 2017 countdown) and elsewhere, but as we get closer to its official debut, the project is growing in stature.
Four days before the season started, the club announced the sellout of the 17,500 full-season memberships on offer. Though individual tickets still remain, support for the new club is demonstrably strong. Some of that excitement can be chalked up to strong support for professional soccer in the city, the superstar club owners (including Will Ferrell, Magic Johnson, Nomar Garciaparra and Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, Tony Robbins and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley), and the novelty of a new club, but the stadium is clearly a major driver for ticket sales. Advanced stadium publicity has been very strong.
LAFC also recently announced plans to play the first international friendly at the stadium against German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund. Although a firm date has not yet been set for the match, the possibility of US phenom Christian Pulisic making an appearance in Los Angeles with his club would be a great draw for Southern California soccer fans.
Regardless of who is on the pitch, however, the real story of Banc of California Stadium may be the exceptional premium areas. In a town full of wealthy and famous fans, the stadium caters effectively to the premium set.
Though the rooftop Sunset Club has provided strong visuals in early stadium publicity with its beach vibe and pools, the inclusion of field-level “bunker suites” may be the most innovative aspect of the stadium’s premium portfolio. Fans with access to these suites will have both premium catering and entertainment spaces and field-level seating just 15 feet from the pitch with their feet on the grass. The trend has become popular in other sports and around the world, with various variations, mostly retrofitted, but Banc of California is pioneering its use for American professional soccer.
The stadium’s premium spaces will also be open year-round for private functions and public use. Plans are being laid to use the stadium for premium tailgating for the adjacent Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans and temporary venue for the NFL’s Rams, which is undergoing a $270-million renovation scheduled to be completed in 2019. The stadium will also feature an upscale food court featuring top LA chefs, and a soccer pub, that will be accessible to the public on non-game days.
Despite all of the cool features of the new stadium, and the celebrity-driven buzz, what happens on the pitch will likely drive the success of the franchise going forward. With a rival club just across town, facility dominance will give it a leg up, but nothing drives fan support like on-field success.
The good news for LAFC is that once they open the new stadium, they will have four straight home games to get comfortable on their new pitch. After the Seattle home opener, the club plays Dallas, Minnesota and New York City FC at home in the first half of May before heading back out on the road.
With a home field as nice as Banc of California Stadium, they may never want to leave….
Renderings courtesy LAFC.
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