Commentary

Two soccer-specific stadiums open Saturday

By Paul Kennedy

Saturday marks the opening of not one but two soccer-specific stadiums. Neither has more than half the capacity of the smallest MLS soccer-specific stadium, but each is unique in its own right.

The San Antonio Scorpions' Toyota Field was privately funded by club founder Gordon Hartman, and all profits the NASL club generates will be donated to Morgan's Wonderland, Hartman's theme park geared toward children with physical and cognitive disabilities.

The stadium, located on San Antonio's Northeast side, will seat 8,000 to begin with but can be expanded to 18,500 in the future.

Filling the stadium, beginning with Saturday's opener against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, should be no problem. The Scorpions averaged 9,819 fans a game at a local high school stadium last season, their first in the NASL.

With enthusiastic support from supporters groups like the Crocketteers and Bexar County Casuals, the atmosphere at Toyota Field -- no seat is farther than 60 feet from the field -- should be electric.

The USL PRO Pittsburgh Riverhounds open a new home of their own Saturday as they host the Harrisburg City Islanders at Highmark Stadium near downtown Pittsburgh.

The 'Hounds' soccer-specific facility is even more intimate than San Antonio's Toyota Field, seating just 3,500 fans -- no bleachers -- in its initial stage. That's only slightly more than what Pittsburgh's first pro team, the Phantoms, averaged at the old Forbes Field in 1967.

Pittsburgh doesn't have the tradition of pro outdoor that many other major cities have, but the 'Hounds have support from the Steel Army -- with its own 500-seat supporters section right behind the goal -- and the stadium is part of a redevelopment project at Station Square on Pittsburgh's South Side with the downtown skyline in the background.

As Highmark Stadium was about to open, Riverhounds midfielder Jason Kutney was preoccupied with such chores as getting the stadium concessions -- the stadium goes 11-v-11 with its selection of domestic and imported beers -- and technological issues squared away in his role as CEO.

That's right, the Pittsburgh CEO is also a player. Kutney played college ball at Duquesne with the club coach, Justin Evans, and has been with the team since 2006.

SCORPIONS ON LOCAL TV. The Scorpions will have 13 NASL games televised -- including Saturday's opener against the Rowdies on ABC affiliate KSAT 12. It will carry three Scorpions games, while sister station MeTV will air 10 games.
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