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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The latest iteration of professional soccer in South Florida is in its early stages of existence, and flickers of brilliance persist, despite some downsides. However, for a fan attending a Miami FC game at FIU Stadium, it is easy to see that the team is getting a lot of things right.
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The variety is bigger than most stadiums, with some South Florida flair. A hot dog costs just $4, with burgers only $5. Drinks and fries are also available, as well as candy and even arepas, a South Florida favorite. A cold beer on tap, be it a popular brew or one from Miami Brewing Company, costs $8, a solid price for professional sports.
The atmosphere at Miami FC seems like that of a bigger sports program. The fans who attend the game are loud and proud. The stadium itself is a quality facility for professional sports, and the game on the field is exciting. The scoreboard at FIU shows video replays, and there is even half-time entertainment, along with pre-game awards and recognitions of local groups and youth teams. The hard part is the 20,000-plus seat stadium seems mighty empty when a crowd of 2,000 folks come to take in a Miami FC game.
The team itself looks visually attractive, with bright teal and orange colors highlighting the team jerseys and the stadium's signage during game nights.
FIU Stadium is located on the campus of FIU, so unlike stadiums in the middle of a city, there is a sense of security on campus, as you are seemingly separated from the rest of the neighborhood around it. However, there still remains the issue of how that surrounding neighborhood looks, and it isn't exactly the best in Miami, but it is getting better
Sweetwater is a town known for political corruption and severe street flooding during hurricanes, and not much else. Put a college campus in the middle of it, and you have FIU.
Across the street is a Publix shopping center with several restaurants, and there are hotels on the western side of the Turnpike, for those wishing to stay close to the stadium itself.
The fans may not fill out every seat in the stadium, but those who do are always loud with their support. In the end zone under the scoreboard, the Dade Brigade (the team's supporters' group) chant and sing to the team, with a small band playing behind them. After the games, fans gather at Fritz and Franz Bierhaus in Miami, the official post-game restaurant of Miami FC. If the team continues where they're going, however, the fans will no doubt begin to show up as the team continues to grow.
Getting to the stadium at FIU isn't too hard, but traffic can sometimes be problematic. As is typical in Miami, traffic backs up right around the exits nearest FIU's campus on a daily basis. If you find yourself hoping to get to a game and rush hour happens to have lasted a little longer on that day, you may be in for a late arrival.
The best part about getting there, however, is the free parking on site. You can park steps away from the entrance gate and not have to pay a dime. Once in the stadium, getting around is pretty easy, as well, as the concourses are big, open, and easy to navigate.
The price of a ticket is low for Miami FC games, starting at just $24 and going up to only $53.50 for club-level tickets. Add in free parking, the low price of concessions, and you have a very inexpensive night for a family outing to see professional soccer in Miami.
During the year, the team has various giveaways.
Another bonus is after some game nights, the team has a fireworks display for the fans.
One of the overlooked aspects of the game is the ease of access for fans to meet players and get autographs and photos.
The team also has a quality main concourse that features games for kids and adults, as well as a team store display set up for fans.
The game day experience for Miami FC is one that is growing, even in the early days of its existence. Fans can expect an experience that mirrors the great teams in NASL, providing a solid foundation for the future. While the fans may be thin at times, there is little doubt the team is on the upswing, and the future could be bright, while the futures of other potential professional soccer teams in the area flounder. Add to this the local rivalry that is growing with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, as well as in-state rivalries with Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, and Miami FC is poised to becoming a successful program in a tough South Florida market.
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