RailHawks, Galaxy a big match-up on smaller pitch
Posted June 23, 2014
Updated June 24, 2014
When the Carolina RailHawks take the field against the LA Galaxy Tuesday at 7 p.m., it won’t be in their familiar stadium, but instead on a much smaller practice field.
“That field is an incredible field in itself,” said goalie Scott Goodwin. “Half the games you play are away games and this one’s a lot more familiar than any of those so I think there’s still a level of comfort there.”
WakeMed Soccer Park is currently undergoing a re-sodding, making a change from ryegrass to Bermuda grass. The switch comes at quite possibility the most inopportune time for the RailHawks.
After advancing to the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a penalty-kick win over MLS’ Chivas USA June 14, the RailHawks earned the opportunity to host a more high-profile MLS team -- the LA Galaxy.
With their main field receiving some maintenance, the RailHawks-Galaxy game will be played at Koka Booth Stadium, commonly referred to as Field 2.
“We’d love to be in the stadium and sell it out, pack the house,” said forward Zack Schilawski. “But it’s out of our control. For us it’s just another game. I’m sure the venue will look great and be great for tomorrow night.”
WakeMed permanently seats 10,000 people, Field 2 permanently seats just 510, but additional bleachers will be added Tuesday to accommodate up to 3,000. As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the game was sold out.
“As we expected, the tickets to Tuesday’s match versus the LA Galaxy with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane have been in high demand,” said Team President Curt Johnson. “We want to give our fans the opportunity to attend this high-level match. Opening up these new seating opportunities at Koka Booth Stadium Field 2 allows us to do that.”
The Town of Cary and the RailHawks organization agreed prior to the season that they would re-sod WakeMed Soccer Park during the first week of June, between the Spring and Fall NASL seasons. When the Lamar Hunt schedule was released in April they took another look at their options.
Assuming Carolina would make it to the fourth round and host between June 10 and 18, time became an issue. With the RailHawks hosting Puebla FC for a friendly on July 6, they couldn’t lay the Bermuda grass and give it time to take any later than their fourth round game. The only other option would be to lay a thicker slab of Bermuda grass for $250,000 -- which was taken off the table almost as soon as it was put on it.
“We knew a long time ago what the possibility was when we got to this stage, if we were going to be at home, we’d be on a smaller field,” said head coach Colin Clarke. “But I’d rather be at home than be away, so we’ll take it.”
Per the United States Soccer Federation, hosting a fifth round game costs the home team $18,000 as well as 15 percent of gross receipts above $100,000.
The average game day ticket price at WakeMed is $17; at capacity that would roughly equal $170,000 before concessions, merchandise and parking fees. For the match against the Galaxy tickets are averaging $20.
Even with fewer seats available, the Town of Cary is advising drivers to expect heavy traffic delays near WakeMed Soccer Park. No lanes will be closed but drivers near the intersections of E. Chatham Street and Maynard Road and E. Chatham Street and Trinity Road should expect delays and temporary traffic shifts.
It’s an unfortunate situation for the organization and the fans hoping to attend, but if the RailHawks didn’t keep winning there wouldn’t be soccer at all.