LOS ANGELES – Below a giant golden bow on Wednesday, LAFC executive chairman and co-owner Peter Guber welcomed several hundred attendees inside a completed stadium he hopes will become a “modern day campfire” for Los Angeles.
“The purpose,” he said, “is for the people to be here.”
Star players Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and club GM John Thorrington were among those in the front row basking in the late April sunshine, a time-lapse video of the Banc of California Stadium construction streaming above them.
Speaking from a stage that featured LA mayor Eric Garcetti, MLS commissioner Don Garber, and Guber’s fellow co-owners including Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, Nomar Garciaparra and Henry Nguyen, the entertainment mogul, who also co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and Golden State Warriors, called the process of creating the $350-million, 22,000-seat stadium both “arduous” and “interesting” with a final product that “exceeds expectations.”
The privately funded facility replaced the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, taking its place next to other iconic Exposition Park fixtures like the LA Memorial Coliseum, the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. It will become the most expensive soccer-specific stadium in league history when it hosts its opening match on April 29 (LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders at 9 pm ET on FS1).
In his speech, Guber thanked Garber “for your magic,” alluding to the MLS commissioner’s contribution to helping make the stadium a reality. Garber, in turn, praised everyone involved, including the architects and construction workers who oversaw the project through the 20 months since breaking ground in August 2016.
As the league gets set to expand to new cities like Nashville and Miami in the coming years, Garber emphasized how important the Los Angeles market is to the league, calling the city, “very young, very diverse, and very global.”
Commissioner Garber also applauded the club and head coach Bob Bradley for building a “very good team in a very short amount of time.”
It was a sentiment shared by two-time World Cup and Olympic soccer champion and LA co-owner, Mia Hamm-Garciaparra, who provided her assessment of the team after the ribbon-cutting pageantry.
“For a young team, I think the performance has been tremendous,” she said to reporters, before discussing how the stadium will impact the players. “They’re probably going to be running around like 100 miles an hour in practice today, Bob [Bradley] is probably going to have to be like, ‘Hey, this is exciting, but relax.’”
Media and owners were later invited to watch the team practice for the first time on their home ground, with Rodrigo Pacheco and Vela both scoring for their respective sides during a full-field scrimmage on Banc of California Stadium’s 86,000 square feet of natural Bermuda grass.
The pitch resembled a golf green, a surface which many believe will suit the expansion side’s fast-paced style.
“They have no worries when they step out here," said Hamm-Garciaparra.