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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Kino North Stadium - FC Tucson


Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Kino North Stadium 2817 E Ajo Way Tucson, AZ 85713

Year Opened: 2013 Capacity: 3,200

 

Men in Black

Making its debut in 2013, the Kino North Stadium was the first expansion of Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, AZ, a multi-purpose sports and cultural events center. The Kino Sports Complex, originally opened in 1998 for spring training games. When the MLB teams announced transferring to Phoenix for spring training, the city turned its focus to soccer and youth sports.


The North Stadium is home to the USL-1 FC Tucson soccer, WPSL soccer, as well as the Tucson Sun Cup (preseason spring training for MLS teams) and tournaments. Besides soccer, the North Complex has several fields and grounds used for rugby, softball, and other events.


FC Tucson (known as the Men in Black) began as a soccer club league in 2011 then moved to the USL PDL (Premier Development League) in 2012. The team was quite successful in the PDL, reaching the post season and winning the Western Championship multiple times. FC Tucson transitioned to the USL-1 when that league formed in 2019.


The Pima County Stadium District operates the game day events; it provides a pleasant, enjoyable game day experience.


Food & Beverage 3

Enough food concessions are for purchase to keep hungry fans happy. One permanent concession stand serving basic stadium food items, one colorful Mexican Peruvian Fusion truck, and one beer/cocktail cart round out the options.


The concession stand offers hot dogs, burgers ($4 – $6) and assorted snacks such as cookies, chips, nuts, candy, etc. ($3 – $3.50). The hamburger is surprisingly delicious.


The Mexican Peruvian truck has nine different, generous choices; enough for two servings. Cheesesteak, cubano, chicken or carne asada bowls, steak and shrimp, steak fries, and more, all cost $12.


The beer/cocktail cart sells adult beverages. Craft beers are not on tap; local Dragoon Brewing beers in cans run a pricey $8.75.


The concessions (including a merchandise tent) line an open space when entering the park and just before the stands. Unfortunately, no tables are available to sit and eat the food offerings.


Staff at a table near the concessions require showing ID to get a drinking age verified wrist band, certainly not uncommon and a lot smoother than pulling out ID at a drink cart. The table attendees insist on putting the band on the right wrist and a fan must talk with a manager if they want it on the left, which is silly.


Atmosphere 3

Two stands are on each side of the spotless green soccer pitch. The west side seating is the main seating area and closest to entrance and above player benches. Both stands have handrails for climbing the steps and ramps for prams and wheelchairs. The seating starts at Row A and go up to Row R (18 rows).


The east side gets the setting sun for first part of the game but along with that, the gorgeous orange and purple AZ sunsets. All seating is bleachers without backs except the center section of west side (section 104). Those bleachers have backs and are reserved for season ticket holders. A press box sits above this section.

Sunset at Kino North Stadium, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


The west side is probably the better side to sit as the setting sun is not in fans’ eyes.


As with most soccer games, a formal ceremony takes place with the singing or playing of the national anthem. Music noise is thankfully not played during the game (only at half time) as FC Tucson fans make their own excitement by clapping and stamping their feet on the bleachers.


An easily read, dot matrix scoreboard stands on the north side of the pitch and shows team names, time played, goals, and half. The US flag and, on the night of this review, the Canadian flag fly near the scoreboard.

FC Tucson provide several theme promotion nights throughout the season such as Pride Night, Women’s Soccer Appreciation, First Responders, Youth Soccer Night, and more.


Weather-wise, it’s best to attend games in the early or later part of the season as it can get sweltering in Tucson in July and August.


Neighborhood 3

The stadium is on the south end of Tucson with several places to dine or drink within a mile and many more a little farther.


For places to eat, Chopstix Asian Diner (cafeteria style), Brooklyn’s Beer and Burgers, and BBQ Rush Restaurant are close by. Several fast food places like In-N-Out, Burger King, McDonald’s, etc. are nearby as well.

For local brews a mile or less from North Kino Stadium, try the Hardbottle Brewing Company or the Copper Mine Brewing Co. Tucson has loads of breweries and restaurants so head more towards downtown (about 4 – 5 miles) for other choices.


The Pima Air and Space Museum is six miles south and worth a visit. Four miles in the opposite direction is the Reid Park Zoo and the Randolph Dell Urich Golf Course (an 18-hole public golf course). Although not really close at all, the Saguaro National Park is worth a visit for its impressive views and scenery.


Value hotels like Motel 6, Days Inn, etc. line the I-10 exits north and south of the stadium exit. For more upscaled lodging, head closer to downtown.


Other spectator sports in Tucson during soccer season include the Tucson Sugar Skulls (indoor football), and, towards the end of the soccer season, you may be able to catch a Tucson Roadrunners (hockey) game. Depending on time of year visiting, fans can watch a University of Arizona football or baseball game or any of its other sports.


Fans 2

In the inaugural 2019 USL-1 season, average attendance was a little less than 1,000 fans at an FC Tucson match, below average for USL-1 attendance. We won’t count 2020. Stadium Journey attended a match in 2021 when some physical distancing and other measures were still in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic so it’s hard to judge the fan attendance.


Families, kids, couples, in a variety of languages are heard cheering on the Men in Black. Stomping feet on the bleachers is often heard during and after exciting plays.


The supporter section, cleverly named The Cactus Pricks, make a small appearance in the northwest corner of the pitch. I expect they are more influential when their turnout numbers are larger. Stadium Journey will revisit once the pandemic has ended.


Access 4

Getting to Kino North Stadium is quite easy. It is right off I-10, E Ajo exit if arriving by automobile. Plenty of free covered parking is at the venue. Getting out is just as easy as a traffic light at E Ajo helps with moving the exiting vehicles.


Sun Tran bus routes 11, 15, and 2 stop at the Sports Complex with route 11 having a stop at the Tucson International Airport. Be sure to check the schedule and return times as the last route may leave before the end of the match. The Tucson Airport is 4 ½ miles south of the venue.


One gate is open with the ticket booth to the left. If bringing items into the ground, clear bags are required. Getting through security is painless and fans take a short walk on a wide path to get to the stadium. A wide open space greets fans at the end of the pathway where the concessions are located.


Clean rest rooms are underneath the west stands; porta potties are by the east stands.


For those in wheelchairs, purchasing seats on the west side is recommended as getting to the east side requires traveling across grass which may be a tad more difficult to cross.


Return on Investment 4

Single game tickets run $10 (Supporters Section), $14 (East Stands), $17 (West Stands). Add $1 – $3 if purchased the day of game. These prices are on par and even a little less than other USL-1 teams. The club offers season tickets, 5-game plans, and flex passes which may be more cost effective if planning on attending more than one match a season.


Be sure to check the theme promotion nights when t-shirts or other items are given away.


The concession prices are reasonable, parking is free. It’s well worth your sports entertainment dollar.


Extras 2

Except for the silly wrist band rule, service is excellent from entry into the facility, to ushers, to service via email and over the phone.


Kudos to Tucson city for turning the focus of Kino Sports Complex from baseball to soccer and youth sports when the MLB teams announced transferring to Phoenix for spring training.


Final Thoughts

A high volume of youth soccer programs, women’s teams, preseason MLS, and USL enrich Tucson, AZ’s sports scene. In February, 2021, ownership of the FC Tucson soccer team transferred to an independent private equity firm led by Brett Johnson, original investor of the successful Phoenix Rising FC. The club looks forward to many years of competition and continued growth of the sport in southern Arizona.




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