It may not be the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, or even the new Red Bull Arena, but the Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium absolutely world-class.
KSU Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga. – home of Women’s Professional Soccer’s Atlanta Beat – seats 8,300 fans but has a commanding presence both figuratively and literally. The stadium demands attention with its sharp black and yellow colors and open-ended design but still manages an extremely intimate feeling that puts fans right on top of the field. With over a dozen suites and locker rooms and player facilities that could rival any in the country, the stadium is far from bare bones.
“Just to come here and watch this and see this view you feel like you try to play,” FC Gold Pride forward Marta said. “You want to play. And then to see this on the women’s side in the same structure that they have on the men’s side, it’s important I think to solidify the women’s side just like the men’s side.”
The significance of the stadium goes well beyond any structural beauty. As the first women’s soccer specific stadium in the country, KSU Soccer Stadium is a sign of progress for women’s soccer. The sport has always struggled to gain a strong footprint in the national sports scene and WPS is leading the charge to help change that. Doubters are out in full force after the Los Angeles Sol and Saint Louis Athletica folded, but the stadium outside Atlanta is a physical sign of stability for WPS.
“This stadium is tremendous,” WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said. “It’s the first of its kind in our league and as a women’s soccer specific stadium it is kind of ground breaking for the sport and I think it is just a real testament to the quality of players on the field and what they bring in terms of their world-class talent for them to have a stadium that fits what they bring. And I think for fans, it’s just intimate, great site lines, wonderful feel. The newness and the quality is fantastic.”
“Well I think it is fantastic for women’s soccer,” Philadelphia Head Coach Paul Riley said. “It is the best stadium in the country for women’s soccer. It reminds me of the Charleston Battery when they first came into the A-League. It’s a similar stadium and we need to grow from this. This needs to be the start of, you know, 15, 16 like MLS with their own stadiums and I think if that can happen over the next 10 years then women’s soccer has arrived and it will be here forever just like MLS has grown and blossomed. And hopefully this is the start of some massive All-Star Games and I mean the Atlanta stadium is fantastic. The field itself is fantastic but the facilities are second to none in the country.”
MLS has put soccer specific stadiums on top of its list of priorities for teams to have in order to obtain long-term success. WPS will need to wait a while to begin to see progress like MLS is seeing on that front (10 of the league’s 16 teams currently play in soccer specific stadiums and more are coming), but the scene in Atlanta is incredible given the league is only in its second season.
It is a stadium like KSU Soccer Stadium that puts WPS infrastructure on par with its world-class talent. There is no bad seat in the house and the smaller setting allows for an intimate environment that is perfect for WPS, which averaged 4,493 fans in 2009. It could also serve as an ideal location for other top-level soccer events, including the U.S. Women’s National Team and the NCAA College Cup.
Despite being half-full Wednesday for the 2010 WPS All-Star Game, the environment was electric. That kind of experience can keep fans coming back to a setting that is second to none in women’s soccer.
“It’s just the intimacy that makes it like that,” legendary Boston Breakers midfielder Kristine Lilly, who played in the Wednesday’s match. “You look at leagues all over the world, their stadiums are 20,000. You know, it’s intimate and the intimacy – because if someone scores or does something you can hear it no matter how many numbers are here you hear it with a roar.”
Now, as Atlanta Beat officials admit, the goal is to continue to draw more fans and increase the current average attendance of 3,641, which is carried by an opening day crowd of 7,248, which disappointingly fell short of a sellout. But the idea is build and they will come, which is a much easier motto to stand by in such a world-class facility.
Check out inside access to the stadium below. Here is an exlusive inside tour of Atlanta Beat player facilities, including some incredible locker rooms:
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