With the extremely credible report by the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Baxter on Sunday concerning LAFC's stadium, we can begin to turn our attention to the future, with such a stadium built and hosting MLS games. Even with the news coming out on Monday, there is still going to be a long time before the project will be brought to fruition, and I'm sure there will be a bump or two along the way, but the club's top priority appears to be taken care of, which is obviously a great sign.
Initial reactions to the news of the $250 million stadium, located in Los Angeles proper? We'll finally get to see if MLS' plan to build soccer-specific stadiums in urban locations will pay off in the United States' second-largest market.
Los Angeles is a sprawling city, more like Houston than runaway MLS success stories Seattle and Portland. The latter three cities all have stadiums located in their respective city limits, in an urban setting, if not in all cases strictly "downtown."
LAFC's stadium, at the site of the Sports Arena, located next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, is not going to be a downtown stadium by the most stringent of standards, as the LA skyline will be just up the road. Still, it's as close as it probably was conceivable, and located in the central corridor of the city demonstrates a desire to appeal to all parts of greater Los Angeles.
One of the realities of LA is that the city is broadly divided between the Eastside (downtown and all of the neighborhoods near the 5) and the Westside (near the coast and the neighborhoods near the 405). Informally, Angelinos tend to not go to the other half of LA unless they work there or have another very compelling reason. Will soccer be a compelling enough reason to attract those from the Westside? That's a question for the time being, though as someone whose LA base is on the Eastside, I'm pretty stoked about the location. On a broader level, even placing the stadium in the central part of the city should make it more desirable to those who live north, east and south of Los Angeles proper.
Of course, unless NYCFC finds some sort of rocket up their behinds and pips LAFC to a stadium of their own before 2018, LAFC's stadium will be the first time two teams in the same market will have their own stadium. For those fans of LA's former second MLS team, there are very mixed feelings about the StubHub Center, a perfectly fine stadium that just happened to be a graveyard of dreams for the tenant club. With two MLS stadiums coming to the Los Angeles area, will some people be swayed about which team to root for merely based on location? No doubt. Will that make a measurable difference to the Galaxy's attendance? Will LAFC see constant sellouts of their relatively small 22,000 stadium, based on the possible scarcity of capacity? To be determined.
Obviously, a variety of factors, such as the team constructed and their performance on the field, will go towards LAFC's success or failure, although the stadium should play a significant role. But this is where, in many respects, the proverbial rubber will hit the road for MLS. Will suburban stadiums in sprawling cities still be a viable option, or will the urban blueprint be the only way forward for MLS 3.0 and beyond?
What do you think? Leave a comment below!