Several stadiums around MLS received improvements over the offseason, giving fans new amenities to see as the 2020 season gets underway.
This season is marked by a few notable developments when it comes to facilities. Nissan Stadium will begin its multiseason run as the interim home of expansion Nashville SC, while Inter Miami CF will play at a newly built venue in Fort Lauderdale as it continues its pursuit of a permanent home in Miami. Nippert Stadium is entering what is slated to be it last season as home to FC Cincinnati, which is on track to open a new stadium in 2021.
Stadium storylines are not limited to openings and closings, however, as several existing facilities have been upgraded leading up to the 2020 season. The range of improvements includes fan amenities such as seating and concessions, and a notable slate of technology upgrades that will affect everything from video production to Wi-Fi.
Over the last several years, a major trend in MLS facilities has been the implementation of safe-standing sections—with Orlando City SC’s Exploria Stadium, LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium, and Minnesota United FC’s Allianz Field being among the facilities opening in recent years and included this feature in their designs. Three existing stadiums added them as part of renovations over the offseason, including LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park, D.C. United’s Audi Field, and Red Bull Arena. In addition to those facilities, the new Fort Lauderdale Stadium for Inter Miami CF will feature its own safe-standing section.
Along with a new name, Subaru Park (the former Talen Energy Stadium) will debut several new amenities this season, thanks a series of improvements made by Philadelphia Union. After receiving a soft opening during the 2019 playoff match, a new premium VIP Tunnel Club will be operational in 2020. Open to West Side Field Seat, Field Table, Manager’s Row and Presidential Row Season Ticket Members, the club will offer numerous benefits, including all-inclusive food and beverage and an up-close look at the players and their locker room throughout the game.
Subaru Park will also debut new parking lots and a brand-new videoboard. The display, billed as the first HDR-compatible videoboard in a Philadelphia sports venue and the first in any MLS soccer-specific venue, measures at 109 feet by 32 feet with 3,440 square feet of video surface. Additional video upgrades include improved LED ribbons around the field and bowl and more than 200 new monitors throughout the stadium and concourse.
Toyota Stadium has been thoroughly improved recent years through renovations made by FC Dallas, and that trend continues in 2020 with smaller, but still noticeable improvements. This season, the stadium will offer new complimentary Spectrum Wi-Fi, available to fans for up to four hours. A new 600-square-foot, climate-controlled merchandise store has been added on the east side of the stadium, while FC Dallas has also added dedicated season ticket member gates. Toyota Stadium will also debut the new Chase Clubhouse—a shaded area in the northwest corner of the concourse that offers phone charging stations, a large TV, cornhole boards and selfie stations.
Sporting KC is upgrading its concessions offerings at Children’s Mercy Park this season, highlighted by the new American Royal Barbecue stand located on the stadium concourse above section 127. This addition is part of a larger focus on refining the concessions experience at Children’s Mercy Park, as Sporting KC has also added local fare to the stadium’s menu through partnerships with BRGR Kitchen + Bar, Taco Republic, Parisi Coffee and Port Fonda. In addition, the stadium is debuting five other concessions concepts, spanning from a Brat and Brau stand to a Grab-and-Go market-style offering.
At BBVA Stadium, Houston Dynamo will unveil a series of video-display upgrades, completed in partnership with Daktronics. At the center of these improvements is a new main display, which measures at 34 feet high by 73 feet wide and features a 15HD pixel layout. Two auxiliary displays were also added to the stadium, with the 15-feet-high by 26-feet-wide boards to showcase content that is supplemental to the main display. Meanwhile, a new marquee outside the stadium comes in at 25 feet high by 37 feet wide and will primarily be used to promote current and upcoming events at BBVA Stadium.
Along with the improved video displays, BBVA Stadium now features the Coushatta Pitchside Patio, a rebranded and upgraded space that offers a private bar and catering to groups of up to 75 people. This is part of multiyear partnership between the club and Coushatta Casino Resort.
A notable improvement to Yankee Stadium over the offseason will have implications for New York City FC, as the New York Yankees have added two new social spaces on the 200 Main Level. This reflects a strategy carried out over recent years that has seen the Yankees renovate certain areas of the facility to create more social environments, highlighted by an extensive round of upgrades completed prior to the 2017 MLB season. Although those improvements are primarily aimed at improving the fan experience for Yankees games, they do affect the spectator experience for MLS matches, and all ticket holders to NYCFC contests will be able to access the new social spaces being added in 2020.
In a notable shift in operations, CenturyLink Field is becoming a cash-free venue for all events—including Seattle Sounders FC matches. As part of this change, credit, debit and prepaid cards will be the only accepted form of payment for transactions, including onsite parking along with concessions and retail in the stadium. CenturyLink Field will also feature 10 cash-to-card ReadySTATION kiosks, a free-to-use way for fans to load their cash onto a prepaid card.
Similar shifts have taken place at other venues in the recent past—including Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year—and it is not entirely unprecedented among professional sports facilities in Seattle, as MLB’s Mariners rolled out a pilot program at T-Mobile Park last year. CenturyLink Field’s transition to cashless transactions will be notable on a scale similar to Atlanta, as it will also apply to Seattle Seahawks games once the 2020 NFL season gets underway.
Top rendering courtesy LA Galaxy. American Royal BBQ stand courtesy Sporting KC.