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  • Writer's pictureGregory Koch

Retriever Soccer Park – UMBC Retrievers


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Retriever Soccer Park 1000 Hilltop Cir Catonsville, MD 21250



Year Opened: 1998 Capacity: 3,000

 

Shining Stadium On A Hill

Constructed in 1998, the Retriever Soccer Park is home to the soccer teams of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, known as UMBC for short. Although UMBC athletics is best remembered for the basketball team’s upset over Virginia as a 16-seed, the soccer program has had its successes as well. The team made four tournaments in five years from 2010 to 2014, capping it off with a run to the College Cup, college soccer’s equivalent of the Final Four.


Retriever Soccer Park has been renovated several times, most recently to expand and renovate the bleachers at field level further up the hill that the stadium is built into.


Food & Beverage 2

There is one concession stand at field level at Retriever Soccer Park, selling only the most basic menu. Grilled chicken sandwiches are $5, hot dogs are $3, and that is it as far as things which could be considered a meal. You can make either of those a combo by adding $3 for chips and a drink. Chips are available separately for $1, popcorn for $3, and candy for $2. Bottled soda and water are available for $3.


Atmosphere 5

The Retriever Soccer Park is built into a hill, making for one of the most unique settings in all of college soccer. There are a few small sets of bleachers at the top of the hill, where fans can sit or stand adjacent to the fence and watch the game. There is a much larger set of bleachers at the bottom of the hill which offers up close views of the game action. Some fans choose to bring blankets and sit on the hill itself but be warned it is very steep and many kids seem to have decided the best way down is to slide on their backside. There is a path along the back of the hill that enables fans to walk from the upper to lower level while reducing the incline a bit, but if you want to sit on the hill itself, you will need to walk up the hard way. There is also a scoreboard at one end of the field that shows the score, time, and basic statistics. Note that what purports to show shots on goal really shows all shots, including those not on target.


UMBC has no football program, and soccer is their flagship sport during the fall, with the school putting in all the effort to promote it that many schools put into their football program. There is music to hype the crowd up and even fireworks on occasion. The fans themselves also contribute to the atmosphere here, with the student section functioning like a Supporters Section would at a professional soccer venue.


Neighborhood 3

Retriever Soccer Park is located on the UMBC campus in the Baltimore suburbs, and there is not much going on in the immediate vicinity. Even elsewhere in town, there isn’t much other than a few chain restaurants. UMBC won a hard fight with the US Postal Service to get a Baltimore mailing address, but it isn’t actually located in the City of Baltimore. Your best bet is to make the short drive to the actual city, perhaps to the Inner Harbor neighborhood, where you will find many restaurants and other entertainment options.


Fans 5

On a Saturday night in the fall, while fans of other schools might be checking out their football game, UMBC fans can be found at Retriever Soccer Park taking in some soccer. The club routinely draws over 2,000 fans a game, and while the hill isn’t as packed as it used to be, that’s only because they expanded the bleachers to create more seating there and not because fans are losing interest. Fans are loud, passionate, and some of the most knowledgeable college soccer fans in the country. They are not afraid to get on the referee’s case when they feel a bad call has gone against their team, but unlike some fan bases, have enough soccer knowledge to recognize when a clearly correct call has gone against the Retrievers and not protest, even nodding in agreement at times.


The Retrievers have a student section known as Lot 17, which functions very similarly to a Supporters Group of a professional soccer team. They can be seen front and center in the bleachers cheering throughout the game, banging drums, waving flags, and cheering on the Retrievers. However, all the fans, not just the students, bring a tremendous amount of energy to the game.


Access 4

The UMBC campus is easily accessed via I-195 and I-95. If coming via I-95, take Exit 47 to Maryland State Route 166 and the exit for the campus will be about a mile ahead, followed by a short drive through a series of roundabouts. If coming from I-195, just continue straight across 95, the highway will switch designations and become MD 166, then proceed as previously noted.


Once on campus, parking is available in the Stadium Lot right next to Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena (formerly the UMBC Event Center.) From there, you will walk up a hill in the back of the lot to the ticket booth. To get to the lower bleachers, you will need to walk back down the other side of the hill to field level. The hills are small but fairly steep and the path from the parking lot is unlit at night, so be careful. There is a small lot at the top of the hill, but this is only available to media, game staff, and those who require handicapped parking.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets to UMBC soccer games are $10, which is more expensive than most college soccer in the country, but the Retriever Soccer Park is a top-notch venue so ultimately you get what you pay for. Concessions are affordable if limited and parking is free. In the end, although this is far from the cheapest college soccer ticket in the country, it is still relatively inexpensive, and given the high quality of the stadium, it is still a great deal.


Extras 3

Look for the banners honoring UMBC teams of the past, including the College Cup appearance in 2014.

There is a table by the field level entrance which offers free UMBC gear such as posters.

A third star for the excellent energy here that is brought to every game by the team and the fans.


Final Thoughts

While most soccer fans don’t pay nearly as much attention to college soccer as the professional game, UMBC fans really care about the sport. Even the homecoming game here is a soccer game. All in all, Retriever Soccer Park is one of the top college soccer venues in the country, and a trip here is a must for any soccer fan in the area, even those who wouldn’t otherwise be interested in taking in a game at this level.

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