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Official Review by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In 2014, the USL (United Soccer League) had 14 teams. Beginning the 2015 season, it grew to 24 teams partly due to the MLS clubs purchasing the USL club for their reserve team. One of the expansion teams is the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC who play at the newly updated Sand Creek Stadium. The stadium is adjacent to Security Service Field where the triple-A minor league Sky Sox play.
The Switchbacks FC history begins on Nov 25, 2013 when the franchise application was approved by both the USL and MLS (Major League Soccer), the name of the team was announced late Jan, 2014, the ground breaking improvement project ceremony took place on July 17, 2014, and the Switchbacks first regular season home opener commenced on April 4, 2015.
Stadium renovations of $2 million included providing a seating capacity of 3500, a press box, enhanced sports lighting, suite seating, broad cement concourses on the sidelines, restroom / locker room / and administrative facilities, eight points of sale for concessions and public Wi-Fi.
The Sky Sox are unhappy about the soccer team playing there. Concerns include giving up 10 Friday or Saturday nights a year to host events, and parking concerns. We’ll see if they play nice in the sandbox together throughout the season(s).
In March, 2016, the Colorado Springs Parks department approved the renaming of Sand Creek Stadium to Switchbacks Stadium because of the positive impact the team has had on the community.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions stands are portable tents, trucks, and grills operated and/or owned by local establishments. They flank the concourses on both sidelines and there are plenty options available and with average prices.
Main entrees are Ziggy snacks: Ziggy dog, Ziggy brat, hamburger, cheeseburger ($4.00 - $5.50), chips ($1), soda (Coke products) ($4.00); Famous Dave's - legendary pit bbq spare ribs run $5 for two bones up to $24 for a full rack, bbq and brisket sandwiches ($8 - $9), sides of beans or coleslaw ($2) and they even have chocolate covered bacon ($2) (Colorado Springs); and Blackjack pizza (a Colorado-based pizza delivery chain).
Snacks include popcorn flavors of buttery, kettle, cheese, and caramel ($5 - $7) from Cole's Popcorn (Colorado Springs); Kona-Ice, flavor your own ice with regular ($4), king kona, and kowabunga ($6 - includes a Switchbacks FC souvenir) (Colorado Springs) and Goldminers Candy offering all kinds of sweets even including jalapeno peanut brittle and roasted cinnamon almonds (Manitou Springs).
There's a beer stand that offers Heineken, Dos Equis, Strongbow Apple Cider, Elephant Rock IPA and Devils Head Red Ale (local Pikes Peak Brewery in Monument) ($6 - $7).
I'd recommend the two bone Famous Dave's and the Elephant Rock IPA.
I'm quite impressed by the use of local businesses which demonstrates the organization's interest in its community. Nicely done.
As with most sports in Colorado one can't miss seeing the Rocky Mountains. Sit on the east side stands and you'll get the most impressive view of the mountains. For evening games expect to see some vibrant sunsets.
Seating areas are on the sidelines. One end line has a walkway to travel between to the two sidelines; the other is blocked by a street. Seats mostly consist of aluminum bleachers (some with and some without backs) and all except the VIP seats are in the sun. Stomping on the aluminum bleachers makes a great noise opportunity to cheer and rally the fans and team. The very upper row of the bleachers has plenty of legroom; the others are average.
The VIP seats are bucket style seats and are underneath an awning. There are director style chairs lining the edge of the pitch for fans to watch the game at field level. And for those who like to wander during the match, there are drink rails at the top of both concourses to place your beverage, watch the action, and strike up a conversation.
The public address announcer is difficult to understand and the communications are muffled. The music selection and volume is fine as one can converse easily with their neighbor.
The LED scoreboard is quite basic with just the time, the score, and the period (the half) and it cannot be seen when sitting in the southeast stands. Perhaps a future investment will be to place another scoreboard on the north end of the pitch.
Switchbacks Stadium sits in a suburban neighborhood with sub division, apartments, and shopping centers very close to the field. It is located 10 miles from downtown Colorado Springs in the north eastern part of the city.
A place to visit pre or postgame is Rhino's Sport & Spirits. Though only a half mile from the stadium, I wouldn't recommend walking to Rhino's because one must cross a six-lane highway and traffic is in abundance with minimal acknowledgement to pedestrians. There are several chains and restaurants nearby including: Good Times, On The Border, Egg & I, Dominos, L&L Hawaiian BBQ, Zen Fusion Sushi, and others.
The closest hotel to the stadium is the Residence Inn Colorado Springs Central. Though not walking distance for most fans, it is just 2 ˝ miles from the stadium. There are several other hotels near the airport.
Although slightly more than five miles away, do take a visit to the Air Force Academy when in town and check out the Visitor's Center and the Air Force Chapel. The chapel houses three distinct worship areas under a single roof and has been named a U.S. National Historic Landmark. It has received many architectural prizes since its construction in 1962.
And, you may want to check out some of the Air Force Academy Falcon's athletic teams to see if a doubleheader is possible when you visit.
Colorado Springs has waited quite a long time for soccer and the fans certainly showed their appreciation by coming out in droves during their first ever home opener match in 2015.
Plenty of fans are there sporting their new Switchbacks attire. The hottest item in the souvenir stand is the scarf and the fans proudly display those during the opening ceremony and goals.
The supporter's section is called the Trailheads (a very clever name based on the team name) and they attend games in Switchbacks gear and come with drums, flags, confetti, songs, and loud voices. They sit in the very southeast section of the concourse (sections 117 and 118).
Only time will tell just how supportive the fans will be during the remainder of its first season (2015) and the years beyond.
For the most part, you'll have to drive to get to Switchbacks Stadium. There is a bus stop right outside the stadium but for the life of me I can't figure out the schedule and route(s).
Parking is available from two entrances and both cost $5. Neither one is better than the other as both will require some patience leaving the event after a match. The parking is in dirt lots (it'll be muddy on rainy days) and be sure not to park in the Sky Sox paved lot. There are attendants directing you to a spot.
Colorado Springs Airport is only six miles to Switchbacks Stadium. Denver International Airport is a bit farther - about an hour and 15 min drive. There are more flights to/from DIA and those are probably lower in fare than Colorado Springs.
The concourses on the sidelines can get crowded and there can be lines for the food concessions so it can get pretty tight but it's bearable. Be advised that when the players enter or leave the pitch, they must travel up the east seating area and cross the concourse. The event staff blocks fans from moving through that part of the concourse while the players are heading to their 'locker room.' This is an excellent opportunity to line the waiting area and high five the players as they walk through the controlled crowd.
The ticket booth (it's a table under a canopy) is located on the sidewalk adjacent to Security Service Field on the south side of the pitch. There is a security check but it's almost painless.
The restrooms are different. They are in trailer like buildings. One must walk up some steps to enter them and the stalls are quite small. They're not real flush like we have in our homes; but not the chemical solution often found at remote highway rest areas. They are perfectly fine to use and are clean but cramped. There can be lines at half time and after the game. There is one wheelchair accessible porta potty at the venue.
It's worth the money spent for a ticket to see the soccer team. And, the food and drink concession prices are acceptable. The ticket prices do seem to be a few dollars higher than other USL teams/stadiums.
Ticket prices range from $15 (GA - General Admission) to $20/$30 (Reserved) to $35 (VIP). The difference between GA and Reserved is Reserved seats have actual seat numbers and are located center pitch; GA seats are sit where you want outside of the center pitch two seating areas.
Tickets do cost an extra $1 when purchased on game day but that's better than the $4 'convenience fee' when ordering online. My recommendation is get the $15 GA seats, sit wherever you want in those sections, and move around to other sections throughout the game.
A free program is handed out which includes the rosters for both teams; be sure to pick up one of these upon entry.
The view of the Rocky Mountains and Pike's Peak is quite spectacular. It is one of the best from a sporting venue in Colorado. Depending on the pace of the match, you may find yourself gawking at the mountains more than the play on the field.
Kudos to the Switchbacks for using local businesses for concessions demonstrating a strong community involvement; especially having local brews from Pikes Peak Brewing Company.
All staff members are extremely approachable and helpful and are worth an extra mention.
For those who live south of Denver and do not want to travel north to Commerce City to see the MLS Colorado Rapids, a trip to Colorado Springs to watch the Switchbacks FC may just satisfy your soccer needs.
I recommend checking out a game here if you're a soccer fan and/or have kids who play soccer. It's a good afternoon/evening out.
It'd be great if in future seasons a doubleheader including the Sky Sox and the Switchbacks FC could happen.
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4307 Integrity Center Pt
Colorado Springs, CO 80917
2306 Sijan Dr
U.S. Air Force Academy, CO 80840
3880 Academy Blvd N
Colorado Springs, CO 80917