CARSON, Calif. – If fans noticed anything during Chivas USA's First Kick loss to 2011 MLS Cup finalists Houston this past weekend, it was that the club has worked on being tighter at the back in 2012. They also might have noticed that matches are a much more intimate affair.
The club announced last on Saturday, on the eve of their opener, that they would alter the capacity of The Home Depot Center from 27,000 to 18,800 seats for all home matches in 2012. In order to limit capacity, the stadium’s east side upper deck and the entire north end stand (pictured, in background) are covered in team banners.
Chivas' HDC facelift made its debut on Sunday during the club’s 1-0 defeat to the Dynamo and was met with complete support from MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
“They have to figure out a way to work hard to build their fan base," Garber told reporters at halftime of the match, "and one way to do that is to create more demand for tickets. But also to reduce the supply of tickets."
Altering the atmosphere was not the only rationale behind Chivas’ reconfiguration of the HDC. With the club eying a move away from Carson in the next few years, the new look foreshadows the appearance of the club’s future home.
“[Eighteen thousand] will be the size of their new stadium,” Garber said. “Whatever stadium that they build is going to be 18,000 seats. So I believe that they’re going to make progress on that stadium over the next couple of years, and their view was why not get started with a manifest that will replicate what that stadium will look like. The league was very supportive of the move.”
The decision affected one of Chivas’ supporters groups, the Legion Kalifas 1906, who were moved from their spot in the stands behind the north goal to a perch on the HDC’s grass berm. While the reconfiguration may have changed the look of Chivas’ matches from television and in the stadium, for the Rojiblancos, it is the experience that matters most.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the fan experience and if the fans enjoyed it and felt good about it then that’s the most important thing,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “Certainly for us, we feel like if it’s in a city park, the best stadium in the league or the best stadium in the world, it’s about what is going on in-between the lines. So at the end of the day, we want to be a team that our fans can be proud of and excited about. Stadium configuration whatever it may be, notwithstanding, that’s our goal.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org