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Stadium development advances, now heavier in lower tiers

Apr 19, 2013, 11:20 AM EDT

Highmark Stadium

Stadium development was Major League Soccer’s top development initiative for more than a decade. With the facility element more or less in place now – yes, a couple of sticky exceptions persist – MLS development priorities are shifting.

But the domestic game’s facility initiative moves forward, with an increasing number of second- and –third tier professional organizations now gaining ground on the hunt for proper grounds.

From The Shin Guardian, here is a great first-person account, layered with fantastic context, on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds newly opened grounds.

The club’s former, prolonged facility chase looks so familiar to anyone who has seen the lower-tier clubs bounce around between like vagrants between high school stadiums, Spartan public facilities, ill-fitting football stadiums, small college grounds or retro-fitted minor league baseball grounds.

Well, the Riverhounds’ new Highmark Stadium, with picturesque views of downtown just across the Monongahela River from downtown Pittsburgh is no temporary stop. The place (pictured above in development) looks spectacular.

(MORE on stadiums: Orlando buys $8.2M parcel and unveils soccer stadium plans)

The facility opened just a week after the San Antonio Scorpions debuted inside their own new ground, the 8,000-seat Toyota Field.

This is the grass-roots stuff that remains so important for soccer’s ongoing development in the United States. This is the brick and mortar permanence that the professional game has often lacked. As the piece from Shin Guardian put it:

This was an important night not just for Pittsburgh, but for all of US Soccer. Soccer specific stadiums give the beautiful game a validity and presence that gets the attention of those who, like many Pittsurghers, traditionally forget about the sport, and a permanence for locals who love it, like the Steel Army and the droves of multicultural supporters in San Antonio.

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