LAFC construction site with hard hat, October 2016
Photo by Arielle Castillo

Castillo: LAFC's new stadium progress looks promising

While the MLS season is currently over in L.A., for the city’s forthcoming second team, the behind-the-scenes action continues to ramp up. LAFC began groundbreaking on their Banc of California Stadium to A-lister-studded fanfare this past August, and so far, it looks like Will Ferrell would be happy. According to LAFC president and owner Tom Penn, construction continues ahead of schedule – so we went with him and some of the LAFC crew to take a look shortly after Decision Day.

Photo by Arielle Castillo

Tom Penn surveys the construction site; photo by Arielle Castillo

Here’s what’s going on with the site so far: a lot of excavation, a lot of hole-digging and the moving around of large piles of soil and rocks. But, the foundation’s almost totally dug out so there’s a real sense of the stadium’s footprint.

“I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. Two years ago is when we started this journey,” Penn said, surveying the site. “It’s hard to believe — you see this much actual activity with all the planning, and all the design work, an politicking and negotiations. Now it’s just all about real action.”

The action’s looking promising in a couple of main ways. For one thing, there’s the location, already much discussed. Area residents will already know the site – once the home of the longtime Los Angeles Sports Arena, but also next to cool-kid events like the FYF Fest. It’s close to highways, within view of downtown without being right in the middle of it, and close to a bunch of other neighborhoods bustling for both work and play.

On top of that, the stadium comes close to abutting the street. It’ll be impossible to miss, and feel like part of the city fabric. Will there be traffic headaches? …Well, it’s L.A.

Here’s the cooler part of the coming stadium, though – like the rest of the club itself, it’s being designed especially with supporters in mind. With little else to go on until recently, with the club being built from zero, LAFC has embraced supporters’ groups specifically from the beginning. They already boast more than a half-dozen official ones, and enough of an overall head count to fill a rally this past weekend.

“We’ve met with [supporters] I don’t know how many times. They’ve become really good friends, and basically cofounders of the whole program,” Penn said. “We’ve gotten a ton of direct input on the supporters’ end. We’re building a section unlike any other in MLS. It’s fully dedicated sort of quadrant of the building.”

LAFC supporters at a team rally on Nov. 5; photo by Imad Bolotok

They’ll loom large in the finished Banc of California stadium. You can’t really tell from the site or the photos so far, but in the distance here is the north end, where they’ll live, entering a special section with their membership cards.

Photo by Arielle Castillo

“We asked the guys, ‘What do you want? Where do you want it to be laid out?’” Penn said. “’What do you want it to feel like, what do you want it to look like, what do you want it to smell like?’ We’re designing everything to their specifications.”

As such, here’s what’s sure so far. Supporters will enjoy more than 3200 dedicated seats, plus a special standing section, an elevated bar with a view of the downtown skyline, dedicated entry and exit points, and special areas for pre- and post-game ritual.

They’ll also get cheap beer – yes, cheaper than anyone else in the stadium, though the actual dollar amount is still to be determined. “They’re gonna be like, ‘Wow, that’s all it costs in the stadium? Let’s go there,’” Penn said.

Photo by Arielle Castillo

There’s obviously a lot more work to be done until the team enters the league in 2018, but seeing the buzz around the construction site is promising. As the team continues to build off the field, the building of the actual home of the field itself is making it all seem more real.