SAN JOSE, Calif. – As the San Jose Earthquakes can tell you, $100 million will buy you 3,174 tons of steel, 18,000 seats and North America’s largest outdoor bar.
There’s one unanswered question: How much of a home-field advantage comes with that?
The Quakes will begin to find out the answer on Sunday when they open the Avaya Stadium era against the Chicago Fire (7 pm ET; ESPN2).
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San Jose fans get their first chance to fill Avaya this weekend, and given the horseshoe stadium’s severe rake and attached roof, it could be an ear-ringing experience. Even though the Quakes limited admittance to just 10,000 for the club’s soft opening last month – a preseason match against LA Galaxy – the crowd achieved some impressive decibel levels in the half-empty stands.
“You look around at the other stadiums around the league – Kansas City, Portland, Houston – who have that smaller atmosphere but get good crowds, it creates a great atmosphere,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. “Obviously, with the roof, the noise is going to stay in and be very loud.”
The Quakes boasted strong support even at Buck Shaw Stadium (capacity: 10,525). With season-ticket holders now numbering 12,000, there is potential for a larger number of die-hards to be on hand, ratcheting up the sound for opponents to face.
“It’s going to be very cool,” San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski said. “It’s going to be very powerful to experience, because we have some very passionate, loyal and knowledgeable fans. So it’s very exciting that we get to play in front of them and hear them and have them push us on throughout the 90 minutes, because they’ve done that in the past.”
San Jose players are working at ensuring they’re not running on too much adrenaline when things finally get underway in the late afternoon. A win against goalless Chicago would put the Quakes above .500 for the first time since 2013, helping to push memories of last year’s last-place finish even further behind them.
“There’s definitely a lot of excitement around the game, whether it’s inside the team, coaches or locker room or even outside with the fans,” Quakes rookie Fatai Alashe said. “We’re preparing just like we would for any other game. But there’s definitely a much bigger buzz around it.”
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Said Wondolowski: “We’re very excited, but it’s a game. We have to go out there and get three points.”
Adding another layer to the stadium opening experience is the history Fire coach Frank Yallop shares with the Quakes. Yallop was San Jose’s boss for eight-and-a-half years over two stints, and one of his first moves after initially taking the job in 2001 was to tap Kinnear – a former teammate on the Tampa Bay Mutiny – as an assistant coach. Together, the pair won two MLS Cups in three years.
“Is it appropriate that we’re doing it? Yeah, it kind of makes a nice story line,” Kinnear said. “We’ve had a great relationship over the years. It still feels weird when I look down the bench and see him there. After all this time, it still feels a little odd.”