Big things are happening for Phoenix Rising Football Club, Arizona's highest-level professional soccer team. The club broke ground on a new stadium last fall with an expected opening date of on or around May 1—just in time for the start of the next United Soccer League (USL) championship season.
The club is making the move from its former home near Tempe on the Salt River Reservation to a new facility located near Wild Horse Pass within the Gila River Indian Community. Prior to COVID-19, Phoenix Rising regularly sold out home games at its former 6,200 capacity stadium. Upon completion, the new stadium will hold around 10,000, making for a 40% capacity increase.
“We've had a great few years, an incredible winning streak, and we frequently sold out matches,” says Bobby Dulle, Phoenix Rising general manager. “The next step is to increase capacity and improve the fan experience.”
With input from fans, the new stadium will improve upon areas where the former lacked. Like the old stadium, the new one will be modular in design, allowing for more flexibility and cost effectiveness—but that's where the similarities end.
In addition to the increased capacity, the new stadium will include an enhanced video board, a larger press box, improved sound, permanent restrooms, and a new family-friendly general admission section opposite the rambunctious supporters group seating area. It will also have two practice fields, permanent locker rooms ,and improved entry and exit points, allowing for smoother access. Additionally, there will be a permanent ticket office and an on-site administrative office.
Funding and cost details for the build are not available but Dulles confirmed that the stadium is a private investment and does not utilize public funds.
The new stadium will not only help generate revenue to the City of Chandler and surrounding areas, but will also open up many philanthropic opportunities in the community, as well. The players are actively involved in various community service projects, ranging from tree planting initiatives to reading to students while online during the pandemic.
According to Director of Communications and Marketing, Jason Minnick, the team is currently looking for community partners for to work with for those types of projects.
Prior to selecting Wild Horse Pass for its new stadium and training facility site, Phoenix Rising spent the past four years discussing possible stadium locations with several local governments, including Maricopa County, Mesa, Phoenix, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Scottsdale, and Tempe. The Wild Horse Pass locale was particularly attractive due to its proximity to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and the accessibility the new section of the 202 Loop offered. Minnick says the location is just a short 18 minute drive from the West Valley.
“The new location for the stadium is fantastic,” Dulle says. “It has an existing infrastructure with paved roads, and is more centrally located, in close proximity to everything.”
The club currently plays in the USL Championship, with aspirations to become an expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS), the highest level of pro soccer in the United States. The new stadium is a step in the right direction.
“Our goal is to to take soccer to the highest level in Arizona, and we're very excited about what we've done and the progress we're making,” Dulle says. “MLS is very competitive, and there are a lot of markets trying to get there. This move will allow us to check our goals and make room to expand down the road.”
Phoenix Rising will be going into its fifth season as a team, and prior to COVID-19, the club had impressive statistics—including selling out 23 consecutive matches. They also won the 2018 and 2020 Western Conference Championships, and in 2019, the team won 20 consecutive matches. That's the longest winning streak in American professional soccer history.
The pandemic definitely slowed down the momentum, but also influenced some decisions in regards to the new stadium.
“The health and safety of everyone was a priority and top-of-mind in the planning,” says Dulle. “We will open with limited capacity in line with the recommended guidelines at the time, but we remain cautiously optimistic.”
The fan experience is a top priority for Phoenix Rising FC. The new stadium was designed with that in mind, and according to Dulle, there won't be a bad seat in the house. Season ticket prices start as low as $200 for the upcoming season.
“We are so excited for what's in store for our fans and the community,” Dulle says. “We want to bring together Arizona and rise as one!”
For season tickets or more information, call 623.594.9606 or visit PhxRisingFC.com.
Interesting Fact: One of Phoenix Rising's owners is the legendary Chelsea and Ivory Coast striker, Didier Drogba. Drogba was the first player-owner in football history. He played a pivotal role in helping to end a civil war in his home by using his platform to make an impassioned speech, which resulted in a cease fire!