LOS ANGELES -- As the sun dipped behind the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night, on the evening before their club’s inaugural home match against the Seattle Sounders, a handful of LAFC supporters toasted the first beers at their own bar.
“The center of the LAFC universe, in terms of the footballing side, is with the supporters,” said Josef Zacher, the president of the club’s 3252 Independent Supporters Union. “And that, I commend them for.”
Built at the top of the 3252’s North End of Banc of California, the bar was the product of several design sessions where LAFC, architecture firm Gensler, and official beer sponsor Heineken, solicited feedback from supporter groups about how to make the bar the cherry on top to a safe-standing supporter section with the steepest grade in MLS.
View of LAFC's supporters section and bar above it | Alex Dwyer
“[The bar] speaks to the whole ethos of the whole stadium here: everybody is close,” said Pat Alviles, LAFC’s manager of supporter relations. “It’s going to get packed and you’re still going to be able to see the whole entire field.”
Not having to leave the match to grab a pint was perhaps the most important point supporters wanted to get across in the design process. With the bar just several steps from the top of the north end, even those pouring the drinks have a largely unencumbered view of the pitch.
Before the crowds arrive, supporters took a break from tifo preparation to explore the space they helped create.
It’s a long, black bar trimmed with Heineken-green neons and emblazoned with gold 3252 numbers. Strings of Edison-style craft lights lead to a collaboration between the Dutch beer giant and local graffiti artist Nina Paloma adorning the western wall.
“This is posh, we’re not used to this,” admitted Sal Reyes of Lucky Boys, a supporters group who originated out of an English-style pub in nearby Pasadena. “[Lucky Baldwins] feels like you’re on a hull of ship with the rickety wood.”
Once they get the drums and numbers inside before kickoff though, Reyes feels the place will begin to feel more like home. Fernando Varela of the Expo Originals agrees.
“It definitely feels like it needs some character but it’s going to be cool over the years to personalize this more and more.”
The bar has a few spaces for supporter regalia — a beam for scarves, a massive bulletin board, and a trophy cabinet. While some design ideas made the cut and others didn’t, supporters were most pleased with the bar’s emphasis on nearness and practicality.
“Last game our capo was like ‘Hey man somebody get me a beer,’” Oscar Ibarra of 3252’s Cuervos remembers about LAFC’s open house last Saturday. “I ran but it took forever to get it because our supporter bar wasn’t open yet.”
The view from the supporters bar | Alex Dwyer
For its first day of business, the bar will open a full two hours before Saturday’s 6 pm local-time kickoff (FS1 — Full TV & streaming info), offering both beers and hot dogs at a discounted rate of just $4.
“In a stadium in Los Angeles? You’re going to get beers for $15 at Dodger’s Stadium and dogs for $12,” Aviles said, adding that future home games will have the same special running for the final 90 minutes before kickoff.
For all the premium spaces available to visitors who can afford it, this affordable “90 before the 90” special underlines the club’s commitment to consider all stripes of the city’s supporters.
“The price is really low,” Zacher, who also represents Black Army 1850, acknowledged. “It’s actually an incentive for the supporters to get dialed in way before the game starts so we don’t get stuck with a bottle neck outside.”
Any sports fan can relate to lengthy entrance lines but those are often considerably shorter than the brutal queues for beer. Speed was one last aspect of their new bar supporters were thrilled about.
“They have a lot of cashiers,” noticed Rey Salcedo of District 9 Ultras, counting 14 points of sale at the bar. “That’s going to make it quick, everyone is going to come in and out, and get back down there.”
For LAFC, quickness at concession stands was a focal point of the whole stadium. During a match, that has to be the priority for any supporter bar, as Salcedo jovially added in closing:
“There’s going to be a lot of beer for everybody.”