The Best Division 2 Soccer Stadium in the United States

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Will Parchman from Top Drawer Soccer recently called the new H-E-B Park Stadium in Edinburg the best lower division soccer stadium in the country.

http://www.topdrawersoccer.com/the91stminute/2017/03/the-dynamos-usl-affiliate-has-the-best-lower-division-stadium-in-the-country/

New soccer stadiums of this quality do not open every day, so we drove down to the Rio Grande Valley last Sunday to watch the 2017 USL season opener between host Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.  After spending the evening here, I agree with Will.  I would be surprised if there is a better minor league soccer stadium than this one.

Some facts about the stadium:

  • Seating capacity is 9,700.  Supposedly a few extra thousand can be on the field for concerts.
  • Additional locker room space is available to allow hosting of multiple teams.
  • The stadium cost $34 million to build and was privately funded.
  • There are 28 suites, which are located a few feet above field level instead of in a higher concourse…quite different than the location of suites in most stadiums I have seen.
  • A 48 by 24 foot HD video score board on the north end has a 360 degree Bar underneath….like a smaller scale version of the “Largest Outdoor Bar in North America” installed at the recently opened Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA.  There is also substantial room to stand and watch the game from a small plaza at this location.  It appeared that many ticket holders took advantage of this capability and didn’t spend a lot of time in their seats.
  • The stadium is part of a 40-acre complex that includes training facilities, a 2000 seat amphitheater, executive lounges, a full-service restaurant, a park with picnic benches and play equipment, space for large-scale community events and ample parking.

It is clear that this stadium is designed for much more than second division soccer.  The facility has already hosted events; including a Michelada (a customized beer recipe with lime and other additions) Festival at the stadium prior to the game on Sunday afternoon. In an interview with The Monitor’s Greg Luca published on March 16th, RGVFC President Bert Garcia talked about the potential for the stadium to be expanded to allow potential Division 1 college football.  UT Rio Grande Valley is apparently studying the feasibility of this now.

The game presentation was excellent, with only a few glitches.  The sound system malfunctioned during the National Anthem and the turf kept coming up in big chunks at times.  There had apparently been severe traffic and parking problems at the stadium’s official soccer opening a few days before, but no such issues existed for us getting into or out of the stadium.  I was a little surprised to see police officers directing us into specific parking spaces in the lot, but I guess that demonstrates the problems were addressed!

My favorite part of the stadium design is the player walkway from the locker rooms to the field.  This path passes directly through the concourse on the east side of the field. The stadium seats are large and comfortable and the concessions stands have reasonably priced good selections.

Both sides of the stadium are covered.  I suspect the West stands will be more popular, since the sun was behind our backs and the heat was not an issue even though it was 90 degrees. The location of the setting sun and the heat could pose some challenges for those sitting on the East side of the stadium during the middle of the summer though. The Houston Dynamo had a similar issue at BBVA Compass Stadium when it opened. The team ended up moving the start of the summer games back 30 minutes to 8 p.m., which made the situation much more palatable.  One small complaint is that those sitting in the lower rows of the grandstands at H-E-B Park will have some difficulty seeing the near sideline because of the way the suites below are constructed.

Here are some photos of the stadium taken at the match last Sunday.

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Parking lot view of West side of Stadium
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Toros logo on West side Stadium wall
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View of West Stands from Plaza next to 360 Bar
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View of East Stands from Plaza next to 360 Bar
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Video Board and 360 Bar
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East Concourse
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View into the locker room tunnel from East Concourse
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Toros Bus
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View from South end
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West Concourse
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National Anthem
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Toros Supporters TIFO
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RGVFC Pregame huddle
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SAFC Pregame huddle
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1st half action
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2nd half action
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SAFC traveling supporters
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Player field entrance from East Concourse

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