Story by Brandon Bonaparte
Arizona sports have shown signs of improvement as of late, with the Cardinals’ offseason moves and the Suns’ regular-season success. However, later this month, a new stadium will likely help another Arizona sports team rise in relevance – Phoenix Rising FC.
On April 30th, 2021, at Gila River’s Wild Horse Pass, Phoenix Rising FC will open a new stadium, relocating from their old home, Casino Arizona Field. The new venue will add an additional 4,000 seats, totaling the capacity at 10,000. The stadium will especially target issues previously stated by fans.
You know where we're playing and when we're playing. Now it's time to become a Phoenix Rising season ticket member!#RisingAsOne
— Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) March 30, 2021
“Everything that we heard from our fans that they wanted us to improve upon, including access, lack of permanent restrooms, family areas that we didn’t have, even more elevated and robust VIP experience, we now have them all,” Phoenix Rising FC governor Berke Bakay said.
Another problem the stadium at Wild Horse Pass will address is traffic flow. As an additional positive for Rising fans, GM Bobby Dulle believes the congestion felt at Casino Arizona Field will be a thing of the past.
“Wild Horse Pass has egress onto surface streets in Chandler, the 202, 347 and I-10,” Dulle said. “We have a new, large, dual-sided video board that will be the first thing you see when you walk in the front gate.”
As the light at the end of the tunnel becomes more visible with COVID-19, teams across the United States will be also looking to make up for lost time and capitalize on the hunger from fans to attend live sporting events.
While Phoenix Rising FC plans to allow 50 percent capacity for their first match, Dulle believes the potential of the new stadium to be high.
“We have a new, larger capacity venue in a rapidly growing area,” he said. “Wild Horse Pass is 20 minutes from the West Valley on the 202 and 10 minutes South of the airport on I-10 or the 101. We feel like we’re in a great position to build our fan base and expand the excitement at our matches now that more and more people are becoming vaccinated.”
With the Rising’s season beginning on the last day of April and continuing well into the fall, they will have to compete with many other major sports leagues offered in the Valley, primarily the MLB, NFL, NHL and WNBA.
Operating in the USL Championship, which is considered a Division II Professional League, Phoenix Rising FC is viewed below Major League Soccer teams. With the construction of the new stadium, the idea of an MLS team in the Valley is growing. For Rising head coach Rick Schantz, the final process of reaching the MLS starts now.
“For me, it’s a club that behaves like they’re already in MLS,” Schantz said. “My idea with the players is, if we want to go to the MLS, we need to start behaving like we’re in the MLS now. We’ve proven it with our staff, we’ve proven it with the players that we bring in, and now the ownership and Gila River are proving it with the infrastructure. There’s desire to be at the very top level and when they say it, I think now there’s proof that if these guys say something, they’re going to do something.”
For now though, the Rising will focus on their upcoming season in the USL. On the day their stadium is set to debut, Phoenix Rising FC will square off against San Diego Loyal SC, looking to defend their newfound home.