Last night over 5,000 fans showed up to cheer on the NWSL’s Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field on the Rutgers University campus. But the future of the team lies in a better fan experience than what can be had at the limited facility, and Sky Blue FC is looking for a new home.
With the ascendance of the NWSL in the wake of the women’s team capturing the title at this month’s World Cup, there’s been an increasing and corresponding emphasis on facilities as well. Yurcak Field is a very limited facility: the 5,000 seats are located in a single basic grandstand, with a very basic locker room and no beer sales. No wonder the team struggles at the box office. There are some big names in the Sky Blue FC Sky ownership, including New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and former Bed, Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares, and fans are expecting more. Sky Blue FC has been a tough draw at Yurcak Field, so the team is on the search for a new home, according to Sky Blue interim general manager Alyse LaHue:
“We’ve seen other teams continue to up their professional standards, and Sky Blue has to follow suit,” LaHue said. “We’ve grown out of a college environment at this point. Rutgers has been a great partner to us through the years, but it just doesn’t have some of the amenities that other professional venues have.”
LaHue said ownership is “fully committed to pushing that forward and providing the resources that we need,” and said she has taken the lead on the stadium search.
“I don’t think anybody else is going to put as much pressure on me as I’ll put on myself to push this forward,” she said. “Right now it’s my job to make sure that I look for the best venue and continue to up the standard. These players deserve that.”
Finding a partner may be hard. Surprisingly, New York Red Bulls (MLS) has shown no interest in working with Sky Blue FC, and there aren’t that many potential venues available: a Monclair State stadium hosting a USL Championship team sports artificial turf, and Talen Energy Stadium is too far afield. So Lahue and her owners will continue the search–and NWSL officials want to see a resolution:
Yael Averbuch West, executive director of the NWSL Players Association, told The Inquirer that “everybody who’s on the real inside of [Sky Blue] knows that it can and should be so much more than what it is, and that the current state isn’t good enough. It’s a work in progress, and a lot of progress needs to be made.”
Photo courtesy Sky Blue FC.