Los Angeles Football Club held an opening ceremony for their new home, Banc of California Stadium, on Wednesday, with team owners, the team itself, city leaders, MLS officials and a bunch of fans and media in attendance.
In 10 days, the stadium will host the first ever LAFC home game. It’s worth reflecting on the accomplishment.
LAFC are the first team ever to begin play in MLS and play their first home game in a brand new stadium. Part of that comes with a run up of three and a half years — where other teams were content to begin play and finalize the stadium down the line (and there’s nothing wrong with that), LAFC would not countenance a temporary home.
From the vantage of Oct. 2014, when LAFC was announced, the prospect of building a stadium in time for the first home game, even with the team deciding to wait an additional year and start play in 2018, seemed like a tall order. With no stadium site publicly identified, the obstacles of finding and securing land, getting approval, paying for it and building the whole thing in time seemed incredibly ambitious.
And while time will tell how LAFC’s project overall pans out in terms of their ambitions — on the field, building a permanent, loyal fanbase, helping to transform Los Angeles into a mainstream local soccer city — the accomplishment of getting the stadium totally done in time for a spring home game is truly remarkable.
Of course, we can all piece together some of the conditions that made it possible, with the eventual site, on the location of the LA Sports Arena being mooted as a possibility for an MLS stadium nearly a decade ago, and the likelihood that work was being done behind the scenes to get that location even before LAFC was announced as an entity. There’s also the money, with the stadium going from a projected $250 million cost to $350 million. People may make fun of LAFC having 30 owners, but spending that kind of dough, not to mention all the other costs of a startup like a brand-new training facility (also just opened), hiring staff, funding an academy and, oh yeah, building a team, costs a lot of money. In this case, LAFC appear to have put their money where their mouths were, and how it’s paid off.
The stadium itself looks great, and while we’ll see how it ranks compared to the rest of the league, it’s safe to say this was not a cheap rush job. The touches placed on a stadium, in a major city, for a brand new team, are fantastic.
We’re in a point in MLS in which opening new purpose-built stadiums are normal. It’s part of this boom-expansion cycle, and most likely whenever the era ends, the period of building impressive new stadiums will likely recede (unless MLS goes full-on NFL in their demands for new stadiums in record time). It’s almost blasé to see how cool each new venue looks, the personal touches, the ways teams try to one-up the competition.
Let me make it clear, that getting a stadium like this built in such a short amount of time, and turning out this well, is incredible. 15 years ago, MLS teams playing in NFL or college stadiums was the norm. In a prior era, LAFC would have launched the team in the Coliseum, made a measured attempt to build a team that could survive, and keep their powder dry for a stadium somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area one day. The paradigm has completely shifted, and LAFC have checked the boxes of the new era in quite possibly the most efficient way possible.
For that reason, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the remarkable accomplishment that Banc of California Stadium truly is, 10 days ahead of the first game.
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