EDITORIAL – Four months ago, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC played their first home game at their new downtown soccer-specific stadium, the new Weidner Field. Brendan Burke’s side now find themselves second in the Mountain Division. They’re averaging just over 6,000 in attendance, good for 6th in the USL Championship. The Switchbacks and Weider Field are now an example for the rest of American Soccer’s second division to strive for.
Weidner Field is the Example for all the USL to Strive Towards
Prior to the new stadium, the Switchbacks were middling club trying to find their way in many regards. They gradually have stabilized things in the front office and in the locker room. The affiliation with the Colorado Rapids has never been more collaborative and healthier.
The new Weidner Field is in a downtown location. We’ve seen that be critical with soccer-specific stadiums up and down the soccer pyramid. It creates an event-like atmosphere, helps the club become part of the fabric of Colorado Springs, and appeals to the demographics for growth. All good moves by the Ragain Sports, LLC and the staff they’ve hired.
Everything is starting to come together on the field. Hadji Barry is scoring goals for fun. Burke is assembling a good core of young and veteran players. The team isn’t perfect but they’re already better than they were last year. Burke told Last Word in preseason that this was a 2-3 year project. They’re on track, possibly ahead of schedule.
Now the stadium is not built in a way for expansion beyond 10,000 seats. That could limit the club’s ceiling in some ways if the USL Championship achieves their long term goals. The field is turf, made from recycled cork believe it or not. That could be replaced with grass if needed in the future, says this grass purist writer. There is the cool Epicenter sculpture thing as well.
Almost every corner, yellow card, substitution, etc. is still sponsored with the Public Address announcer coming on the mic regularly during play. Like the Championship itself, the club is still growing and dealing with the financial and sporting realities of lower division sports in America.
But the financial commitment and great execution of a new downtown quality stadium is a statement of intent from ownership. Everything is heading in the right direction. We’re starting to see that influence the first team. Could the club be spending more on player salaries and acquisition? Yes. Have those been trending up already? Yes.
If the Switchbacks become a stable competitive playoff team for the next few years like Phoenix Rising, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Louisville City, they’ll become a template for over half of other USL clubs to follow.
A quality downtown stadium in the right area. Good decisions on the technical side. Connecting with the supporters and the community. Two new good looking kits. A entertaining and ever-competitive product on the field. If the USL and its clubs want to achieve its long term financial and status goals, they’d do well to replicate with Colorado Springs Switchbacks and the Ragain family have done.
Photo by Matt Pollard.
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