The facility used on Saturday, a pop-up temporary stadium to be used until the permanent stadium being built at the Great Park is finished, may not have looked particularly impressive if you didn’t understand the context, but a good opening showing is a sign of promise for Orange County SC moving forward.
First, attendance was healthy for the game. There’s no question that the local opponents helped bring in a few spectators, but for a facility that is projected to hold 5,000, announced attendance on the night was 4,123. Considering the Blues last season were drawing three figures more often than four, getting several thousand out to the game — even with the ominous clouds, periodic sprinkles and unrelenting wind — is a good sign. It’s perhaps a shame that the game stream picked up the smaller side of the stands, the “VIP” side, making the crowd look smaller than it actually was.
Considering this is a facility to be used by OCSC alone, there was a sense of ownership over the venue. Orange County SC flags were posted all around the stadium, and large signs featuring the club’s crest were posted prominently. It may be a small thing, but even having the signs provided an improvement over the atmosphere at Anteater Stadium in the past, where there was a sense of anonymity for Orange County.
The team attempted to create a fun atmosphere before the game, offering sports carnival games and food vendors like you would find at a local festival or youth sports tournament. There was a merchandise table, T-shirt giveaways as part of a promotion for the game, an Orange County player signing shirts and game programs, and for the grown-ups, alcohol for sale. This last point will probably go a long way to trying to bring back repeat customers — it’s a lot easier to convince a friend or co-worker to check out a game if there’s the promise of a beer behind it.
One of the other cool features of the pop-up stadium was the sightlines at the corners. Obviously in a pretty small facility, there aren’t exactly terrible views of the action anywhere, but in the two corners on the “VIP” side, there’s a basic barrier and spectators could walk up to it and watch from field level. In some ways that’s not an intentional feature, but without seats in the corners it provides those attending with antsy legs or those looking for a real close-up to get a pretty cool vantage point.
The drawbacks from opening night? Concessions weren’t fully stocked pregame, so those looking for substantial food were forced to wait. The restrooms were porta pottys, which to be fair is to be expected at a temporary facility but still probably not preferred by the majority of attendants, especially those with small children.
And the field needs a clock and scoreboard. It seems small, but watching a game without knowing the time elapsed is a pain. Nerds like me might pack a watch and actually time the halves, but having a display of the time and score is basic and should be mandatory for a pro game.
Aside from that, the crowds came out and the team performed, and considering the context things couldn’t have gone much better. Orange County SC should be proud of the spectacle they put on Saturday, and their next task? Keep the momentum at their new home going throughout the season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!