By Jeremy Beren/For The Sporting Nation
Phoenix Rising Football Club’s rebrand from Arizona United Soccer Club did not end with new jerseys, new sponsors or new players. The United Soccer League side also has a new stadium.
The 6,200-seat Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex broke ground on Feb. 1 and opened on March 25, when Phoenix Rising hosted Toronto FC II in front of a record-shattering 6,890 spectators. The stadium is located in south Scottsdale, at 751 North McClintock Drive on Salt River Pima tribal land, and it represents the culmination of the club’s search for a permanent home.
Kitchell Corporation has overseen the construction of the stadium, and Project Director Kevin Vander Molen detailed how it was put together so quickly.
“The bleacher seats and the trophy suites are all pre-fabricated and brought to the site, installed on-site,” Vander Molen said. “The locker room is a modular unit that was manufactured off-site and brought on-site in six pieces and put together on-site.”
While the stadium is up to USL specifications, it is a temporary facility, and a new facility will be built on top of the current one should Phoenix Rising’s Major League Soccer bid prove successful.
This is not lost on Solanna Group Chief Executive Officer and General Manager David Fordon. The Solanna Group is the real estate investment firm heavily involved with the development of the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex and the land surrounding it.
“The concept of the stadium - it’s the first step towards a grander stadium for the next level up of soccer,” Fordon said.
The MLS bid got stronger last week when PRFC announced that Ivory Coast and Chelsea legend Didier Drogba is set to join the team as a player and eventual partial owner. Drogba's name alone carries much weight, and while Rising was already headed in what appears to be the right direction toward MLS membership, Phoenix now seems to be a major contender for expansion later this year.
Bobby Dulle is the Chief Operating Officer of Phoenix Rising. Dulle has been involved in all aspects of Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex’s construction, from land acquisition to development all the way to the home opener. He explained the motivation for moving from the West Valley to the East Valley, across the street from Arizona State University’s main campus.
“We were trying to place a soccer-specific stadium, which the Valley did not have,” Dulle said.
In the Arizona United days, the club first played at Peoria Sports Complex before moving to Scottsdale Stadium for the 2015 season. The club then moved back to Peoria for 2016 before settling on a plot of land that was once mooted as a potential home for the Arizona Cardinals. Fordon and the Solanna Group had been working for years on developing this land.
“The genesis of a stadium at that particular location is rooted in what’s called the Generation Seven plan that was done by Salt River for the [Loop] 101 corridor, which started about 15 years ago when the 101 was being built,” Fordon said.
The Generation Seven master plan encompasses a large stretch of land between Loop 101 and Loop 202. The plan calls for the use of solar energy and driverless cars, and includes areas for high technology and trade businesses, a giant theme park, and the new home of Phoenix Rising, which will comprise 15.8 acres out of a 240-acre sports and entertainment district.
“The concept has always been to have a Major League Soccer stadium at this location,” Fordon said. “You go to any other location in the city and it just doesn’t work from a financial and demographic point.”
The Phoenix metropolitan area is one of the nation’s largest television markets and is home to a diverse and relatively young populace. Dulle expects that the stadium's location straddling Scottsdale and Tempe will make it accessible to soccer fans from all walks of life.
"It's very important to draw all demographics," Dulle said.
Fordon concurs that it will be critical to draw a variety of fans to the stadium, and outlined his hope that Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex would become a “temple” for those fans. He went on to praise the Rising ownership group and how their understanding of the Salt River Pima community has created a productive partnership.
“For three years, there’s been USL teams with ownerships and they just haven’t had the commitment, the conviction, the passion, the vision that Phoenix Rising has,” Fordon said.