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Red Bull Arena is nice, but.....

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Major League Soccer now has eight soccer-specific stadium, still not enough but progress is being made.
I just took a tour of the newest such facility, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. -- the home of the New York Red Bulls. The Fire was the Red Bulls' first MLS opponent on their new home turf.
MLS' New York franchise has struggled mightily on and off the field since it came into the league as the MetroStars in the inaugural season of 1996.
The club's new stadium was too long in coming (it took 10 years of planning to get it built), but the facility 10 miles from Manhattan represents a big step in the right direction. Playing at cavernous Giants' Stadium was ludicrous for a soccer team, and Red Bull Arena is a huge improvement. It was built without taxpayer money, the team sponsor footing the bill for the 25,00-seat facility that cost upwards of $200 million.
What's to like? Seats are lower to the field than at the Fire's Toyota Park, creating a loud but intimate environment that's ideal for soccer, and the dining atmosphere is superior as well.
What's NOT to like? Parking will be a problem, and the stadium hasn't exactly excited New Yorkers. Toyota Park is still a mystery to some in Chicago, who still confuse its location in Bridgeview with the South Side community known as Bridgeport.
Red Bull Arena has the same identity problem.
Upon arrival in Newark I asked a hotel shuttle bus driver, a waitress at the hotel and a cab driver what they knew about Red Bull Arena, which is in a Newark suburb. None knew much of anything, though it is just 10 minutes from Newark's Liberty Airport.
My cab driver was completely frustrated trying to find it, and the club is hoping a goodly portion of the fan base will use other forms of public transportation to get to the games.
There was a sellout for the first match, a friendly against Brazilian powerhouse Santos, and 7,500 season-tickets were sold before the Fire arrived for the first MLS match at the new facility. A sellout, though, wasn't a given three hours before kickoff.
Red Bull Arena may be the newest MLS stadium, and -- with the exception of parking -- a cut above most of MLS' other soccer-specific facilities. But I doubt it'll be considered the league's best after the rest of the league has a look at it.

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This page contains a single entry by Len Ziehm published on March 27, 2010 3:31 PM.

Should the Fire have gotten rid of Busch? was the previous entry in this blog.

Fire could face Busch -- and soon is the next entry in this blog.

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