Sep 29, 2012, 5:04 PM EDT
TOPIC: MLS stadiums
Arlo White and the rest of the NBC Sports Network crew are at BC Place for tonight’s big Cascadia Cup showdown, as Seattle visits Vancouver. (9 p.m. ET)
Recently remodeled BC Place is one of 14 facilities built or remodeled specifically for Major League Soccer. Nothing has driven MLS growth more than the ongoing facility initiative. So we asked White three quick questions about MLS stadia.
There really are some terrific grounds now for MLS watching. Which are your personal favorites?
I worked in Seattle for two years and will forever have a soft spot for the mind- blowing experience that is CenturyLink Field on game-day. But if that is the equivalent to baseball of the ‘new Yankee Stadium,’ then down I-5 is Jeld-Wen Field, which would be the ‘Fenway Park,’ with a wonderful, raucous, historic element to it on match day.
I would go with the new soccer specific stadiums, though. I think Houston have done a tremendous job downtown. Kansas City – which I somehow haven’t been to yet, which is a shame – is of course a tremendous stadium.
But for me, I’ve always loved Red Bull Arena. When I toyed with the idea of coming over to work in Major League Soccer a few things tipped the balance. One of those elements was the construction of Red Bull Arena. I thought, nobody is going to spend $250 million on a stadium if they don’t really mean it, and if they aren’t serious about soccer being a success in New York, in New Jersey, and the United States.
It’s the prototype MLS arena for me. It’s 25,000, it is done to the highest specifications. And when it is full it creates terrific atmosphere. They just need to fill it more regularly. For me, that is the flagship soccer specific stadium in Major League Soccer.
Our stadiums here are modeled on European grounds. But we do stadiums pretty well here, too. Is there anything at all that European grounds could learn from the newly developed North American soccer facilities?
It has been huge era, a decade or maybe 15 years, of building new stadiums and modernizing the arenas in Europe leagues. I can speak more of the English leagues than anywhere else and there are some massively impressive new stadiums. Most of them are fairly identical, but they do the job.
The MLS stadiums, I’d like to see a little more personality maybe, but I know there are economic reasons a lot of them look fairly similar.
In terms of Europe and learning things from MLS, I think in MLS the have built the stadiums they require, but they certainly do the job. I wouldn’t say they are better or worse than anything in Europe.
A pair of prominent markets on the East Coast, D.C. United and New England, are in dire need of new grounds. Is there any reason to believe new facilities for New England and D.C. United cannot breathe fresh life into those organizations, a la Sporting Kansas City and the amazing franchise revitalization we’ve seen there?
I have absolutely no doubt that it would. I went to CommunityAmerica Ballpark [outside Kansas City, where the club played for three years] a couple of times and announced games out of a metal container. It was an interesting experience! … There was enthusiasm there, but there wasn’t the passion or the raucous atmosphere we see we see at Livestrong, which is such a terrific stadium.
D.C. have passionate fans and I see it at RFK stadium every time I go there. I just don’t see it in the huge numbers that were once there.
There is a huge passion for soccer around the Boston area and in New England. But they have to go out to Gillette Stadium, which is painful to get to. And the crowds aren’t anywhere near as big as they should be.
So if those two clubs, with those two passionate fan bases with their potential fan bases, get gleaming new homes which are accessible to the majority to the fans, I think you are going to see a tremendous upturn in atmosphere and interest in soccer in those markets.
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