The glimmering green field at the new North Stadium at Kino Sports Complex was missing just one thing — actually 22 things, the players — on Wednesday afternoon.
But there was still more than enough action and suspense to please any Tucson soccer fan during the opening ceremony of the 2,360-seat facility.
Before cutting the ribbon in front of the 1,700-seat grandstand, FC Tucson and Pima County officials unveiled the first match that will be played at the venue — Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA will face FC Tucson on Nov. 15. It’s being billed the 2013 FC Tucson Fall Showcase and will kick off at 7 p.m. Fans can purchase tickets at fctucson.com beginning at noon today.
“This is a momentous occasion for Tucson soccer and the Tucson community,” said FC Tucson general manager and co-managing partner Jon Pearlman. “This complex ushers in a new era of opportunity for professional and top-level youth soccer.”
The match will be the first of many events that officials already have in the works for the $2.8 million facility.
“On Nov. 15, the future of Kino (Sports Complex) is going to begin,” FC Tucson co-managing partner Greg Foster said. “Shortly after that, these world-class soccer fields are going to host a large youth and professional lacrosse tournament, hosting 150 lacrosse teams from around the country. Shortly after that, numerous youth soccer games from AYSA (Arizona Youth Soccer Association) to local club tournaments will be played on these fields. And then right after that, although we’re not ready to announce it yet, there might just be another Major League Soccer event happening in Tucson.”
The new roofed grandstand — a mix of blue girders, red panels and silver seating — becomes the prized centerpiece when local officials try to entice MLS and other forms of professional soccer to Tucson.
With all the metal and a roof to hold a good bit of sound in, the grandstand figures to make for a noisy atmosphere.
Wednesday’s crowd of about 100 that sat in the grandstand to watch the ribbon-cutting, proved that case quite well.
“Even when it was just 100 people chanting ‘FC Tucson’ today, the sound just completely carries and it’s amplified,” said Keaton Koch, president of FC Tucson’s supporters group called the Cactus Pricks. “It’s just incredible.”
The Cactus Pricks will get their first real chance to test the acoustics in just over three weeks when Chivas USA comes to town.
“We’re really thrilled that it’s Chivas” that is opening the new stadium, Foster said, “because we think that it will really speak to our local market. It’s a team that’s located nearby, and part of a famous brand.”
That famous brand is Mexican giant CD Guadalajara, commonly called “Chivas” on both sides of the border. The roster of Chivas USA, a subsidiary of CD Guadalajara, has a handful of players on loan from Guadalajara, including 20-year-old forward Erick “Cubo” Torres. He led Chivas USA with seven goals this season.
Also on the roster of the Los Angeles-based club is defender Carlos Bocanegra, a former captain of the United States national team.
Chivas USA, which wrapped up its MLS season Saturday, finished last in the nine-team Western Conference.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and very important for us to participate with FC Tucson in an exhibition game, as it will help us stay active during the offseason,” Chivas USA director of soccer Francisco Palencia said in a press release. “We come into this game knowing that they have a good fan base behind them and a great facility, so we are taking it very seriously. ...”
They’ll have to share a little of the limelight with a stadium that few thought just a few years ago would ever be a part of the Tucson soccer landscape.
“This stadium will give us a venue to showcase our amazing fans,” Pearlman said. “We also hope to bring top professional teams from Liga MX (the top Mexican professional league) and likely elsewhere around the world. We also will be working diligently to bring in the Major League Soccer draft combine … and, hopefully, some youth U.S. national team matches as well.”