LOS ANGELES — Experiencing a stadium opener in the heart of Los Angeles was everything it was hyped up to be. The intimate atmosphere filled with fans who cheered the entire time Banc of California stadium‘s gates were open, plus a few “only in Los Angeles” touches made Los Angeles Football Club’s inaugural home game, a 1-0 win over Seattle, something to remember. As a reporter being able to take in the match as a neutral soccer fan, here is my review from the stadium’s opening day.
Stadium parking prices were pretty steep; I talked to someone who paid $30 to park six blocks away. That being said, public transit or rideshare options were readily available for this match and were utilized by many, including myself. This option is great for those who live locally, or those near metro stops, but the limited metro lines in LA make this a less viable option than it would in more connected cities.
Entry into the stadium was a breeze. I had done my research about the clear bag policy before leaving, but I noticed that a decent number of women were turned away for their purses not meeting the guidelines. I hoped those turned away had a car to put their belongings in, rather than trying to figure out what to do with the bag after taking public transit to the stadium.
The food and beverage prices were within the normal range for a Los Angeles stadium, and there were enough options that the lines weren’t unreasonably long. My only complaint is the lack of vegetarian or vegan options in the stadium for those with other dietary preferences. There was also free wi-fi available in the stadium for all fans in attendance.
One thing that impressed me was the diversity of the crowd and the music in the stadium. I have been to sporting events of many kinds in Los Angeles, but few atmospheres have so appropriately addressed the Los Angeles audience. The stadium announcer read the LAFC starting lineup with a sample of the piano from “Still D.R.E.” playing on loop in the background. Finding a way to mix local music into the introduction of the club for the first time at home was quite the feat.
Finding my seat was one of the few things I had an issue with. The individual section numbers were only posted on the interior of the sections, rather than in the main aisleway. I had to enter a section I thought was close to where my seat was located to check to see which section I was actually in.
The fanfare just before kickoff was another great touch of Los Angeles flair. Not only were there multiple skydivers who landed on the pitch before the match, Will Ferrell stood fieldside and released a falcon that flew around the stadium before returning to its trainer standing at midfield. The falcon, named Olly, had his information up on the big screens before taking flight, so fans all around the stadium chanted “OL-LY! OL-LY!” as he made his way through the air above the crowd.
LAFC supporter group The 3252 began cheering at least a half an hour before the players took the field for warmups and did not stop for the entirety of the match. They mixed various drum beats with their chants to create an atmosphere felt stadium-wide. During part of the match, the team held up at least 10 different countries’ flags, one for each nationality represented in the LAFC squad. Embracing diversity seemed to be an important part of the game day experience.
One thing I was disappointed in was hearing the offensive goalkeeper chant. It seemed to occur on both sides of the stadium when Seattle’s Stefan Frei took a goal kick. The team has since issued a zero tolerance statement on this chant, and I sincerely hope that they follow through on their stance against it.
There was a decent contingent of traveling Seattle fans, who were seated in the upper deck of the stadium. The stadium is compact enough that there isn’t a bad seat in the house, so away fans also had a great view.
In exiting the match, I was able to meet my Lyft at the designated pick-up area in one of the stadium’s parking lots. While I could see that area getting congested easily, it was convenient having the cars all meet in one place for pick up.
Banc of California Stadium’s opening day was an experience I won’t forget any time soon. I am looking forward to the team building its own culture in the heart of Los Angeles and the exciting matches that will happen in the state of the art stadium in the future.