On May 21, USL Championship side Colorado Switchbacks FC opened their new stadium, Weidner Field, in downtown Colorado Springs. They welcomed rival New Mexico United but fell 3-1. However, the result wasn’t the most important aspect of the evening.
The new stadium proves that interest in the beautiful game is at an all-time high in the Centennial State. Along with Weidner Field, the new USL League One expansion team Northern Colorado FC show that owners and fans alike are willing to invest in the game in Colorado, which is already doing wonders at every level.
Investment and interest breed success, and the Switchbacks are hoping that recipe can help them become a dominant force moving forward.
“We need to make people understand they have something to get behind going forward,” said Switchbacks FC head coach Brendan Burke, who recognizes the importance of the new stadium and how it can help grow support for the Switchbacks. Speaking with Burgundy Wave, Burke was confident that even more fans will turn out as the season goes on, saying, “I’ll know there’ll be more and more out.”
Opening night was a good sign of things to come — Weidner Field welcomed 5,600 fans (70% capacity) due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Coach Burke described the atmosphere as “awesome,” and being there myself, it’s hard not to agree. Of course, opening night will always have a large crowd, but with health restrictions being lifted, it isn’t unrealistic to expect that sort of crowd at every match for the Switchbacks. And, of course, this would do wonders for the club. A large, established fanbase is every club’s dream and it’s clear that interest in the Switchbacks is at an all-time high due to the new downtown stadium.
Colorado Springs isn’t the only city unveiling a new downtown stadium in the American soccer pyramid. Fellow USL Championship club Phoenix Rising FC opened a new 10,000-seat stadium, while former Rapids affiliate Charlotte Independence just went through a multi-million-dollar renovation of their home field. From Rhode Island to Indiana to Washington — and everywhere in between — new stadiums have been approved all across the nation. Not only is MLS growing massively in North America, but the lower leagues are as well.
The growth of USL will help MLS improve in quality and will help bolster an already exciting national team set up. Along with the benefits for the quality of soccer in the nation, it will also improve the culture around the game. Downtown stadiums make a huge difference in a city’s soccer scene. Just look at Seattle and Portland, regarded as some of the best soccer cities in the nation, both with centrally located stadiums.
Obviously, the Switchbacks won’t become the Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers, but there’s a very real possibility that a love for the game and a vibrant soccer scene can be born in Colorado Springs with the new Weidner Field in downtown.
Soccer is truly on the rise in Colorado. Between the new stadium in Colorado Springs, the new franchise in Windsor, and our beloved Burgundy Boys in Commerce City; interest and passion for the game is increasing every year.