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  • Pete Dowell

Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park - North Carolina FC

Photos by Pete Dowell, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86

Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park 201 Soccer Park Dr Cary, NC 27511

Year Opened: 2002 Capacity: 10,000


Where's the Excitement

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park was originally called State Capital Soccer Park when it opened in 2002. The soccer park has three FIFA regulation fields, one game field, two practice fields and four non FIFA regulation fields in the soccer park complex. The main game field is what was referred to by the using of the soccer parks name (State Capital / SAS / WakeMed Soccer Park) before the main game field received a name.

State Capital Soccer Park’s first professional team was The Carolina Courage of the defunct National Women’s Soccer League (WUSA). State Capital Soccer Park was renamed SAS Soccer Park in 2002, renamed WakeMed Soccer Park in 2008 and in 2017 the main game field at WakeMed Soccer Park became Sahlen’s Stadium after Sahlen Packing Company gained the rights to the naming of the main game fields stadium.

North Carolina FC of the United Soccer League USL (formerly the Carolina RailHawks of the USL) has been the premiere professional team at Sahlen’s Stadium since 2007. Sahlen’s Stadium was built specifically for FIFA regulation soccer and can seat 10,000 fans.

There is not a bad seat in the stadium. North Carolina FC is in the process of trying to win a bid to join the MLS and become one of the elite USA soccer teams and build a state of the art stadium in downtown Raleigh, NC. The Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park experience is very tame by general pro soccer standards and may be an issue for admittance into the MLS.

Food & Beverage 3

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park offers many of the low end basic stadium food like hot dogs, chips, peanuts, soda’s and beer that mostly can only be purchased with cash. Local chain Backyard Bistro provides higher end foods like pulled pork sandwiches. The lines at the soccer park move fast and the concessions workers are very friendly and helpful.

There are two different food stands. One stand has hot dogs and items like candy and chips while the other stand run by Backyard Bistro has items like fries and pulled pork sandwiches. The ice vendor where flavors can be added to the shaved ice is very popular at the game. All of the foods are well prepared and taste fine.

A multitude of sodas are offered in the bottle at the main concession stand while Budweiser is the beer served out of a separate cart.

I recommend trying a flavored ice treat. The flavored ice is a big hit with everyone at the park.

Atmosphere 3

The atmosphere is very tame. The people in attendance are not invested in the game’s outcome and seem to be happy to just spend time out of the house with friends and / or loved ones.

The stadium is very well maintained but very basic. A mix of metal bench seating with no backs, molded seating on metal benches with no backs, and molded seating with a back are available. Your seating will be determined by the type of seat you purchase for the game. There are only two built in structures for the sale of fan merchandise / food.

There is a small but adequate digital score board / entertainment screen that shows scores, replays of the action and crowd shots.There is a built in second level press box and a second level premium seating.There is also third level seating that was not used during this game.This stadium feels more like a nice non-university college field than a pro team’s home field.

The Oak City Supporters and Triangle Soccer Fanatics are support groups that are passionate about their team and prove it the entire game. The support groups are located in the south stands in sections 204 – 205 and are the highlight of the game as they jump around and belt out songs that fit how they feel about their team and what’s going on during the game. It was Wizard night the evening of this review and at half time two teams played Harry Potter’s favorite game Quidditch. No one paid any attention to the half time game.

I recommend sitting in either of the mid field sections 105 – 106 & 305 – 306 so that you can get an even view of the entire field.During evening games sections 301-310 get a direct blast of sunlight while sections 101-110 get some shade and are the place to sit for evening games.There is an area called The Owners Club that has premium seating that will provide shade and it’s located behind sections 303 – 308.

Neighborhood 4

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park is located in Cary, NC a suburb of Raleigh, NC. Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park is located in the middle of a green area that transitions from HWY 40 to the shopping and homes of Cary, NC. There are a few places to eat within a mile drive of the stadium but nothing so close that it would be an easy walk. A short drive of five or less miles from the stadium will provide food choices ranging from fast food chains to a fancy four course meal restaurants. If staying in town for a few days during the soccer season I would recommend one of the free outdoor activities that can be found at one of the local nature and wildlife areas or one of the small local museums. Cary, NC is not a hotbed of action but does have many beautiful natural sites and is just outside of Raleigh which has loads of things to do. Raleigh, NC has natural sites, world class experiences and museums all within 10 – 15 miles of the stadium.

I recommend trying Bella Monica for an early dinner before a game. Bella Monica is a mid-range priced Italian restaurant located just under five miles from the stadium with great food. I also recommend Dave & Buster’s for before or after a game for okay food with games and fun just 2.5 miles from the stadium.

I recommend fishing, hiking, picnicking, and boating at Lake Johnson. Lake Johnson is located five miles from the stadium. I also recommend art viewing at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The North Carolina Museum of Art is located five miles from the stadium.

I recommend staying at Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Raleigh / Cary.

Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Raleigh / Cary is located 4.5 miles from the stadium and provides all the mid-range amenities and comforts that this chain is known for.I also can recommend Best Western Plus Cary Inn.Best Western Plus Cary Inn is located five miles from the stadium and provides a safe and comfortable place to rest if you have a lower budget.

Fans 2

Most of the fans seem to be indifferent concerning the outcome of the game.

According to Soccer Stadium Digest North Carolina FC is in the middle of USL attendance ranking #17 out of 33 USL teams. So far in 2018, the 10,000 seat Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park is averaging 3,693 seats filled per game.

Besides the Oak City Supporters and Triangle Soccer Fanatics support groups the fans don’t get very loud or excited for most of the game. Most of the fans seem happy to be out of the house. Fans somewhat watch the game but mostly just enjoy the soccer parks food and sights.

Access 4

The stadiums lower areas are very accessible and have ramps and special seating for handicapped people. The stadiums upper level seating only has cramped, steep steps for access.

The North Carolina FC provides transportation with snacks free of charge to fans on game day to and from the game. Go to North Carolina FC Express to see the multiple pickup and drop-off locations and requirements to ride.

Free General Parking is located in Lot C. There are many lot attendants to direct fans through the paved and unpaved parking area on game day. A map of the parking areas can be found at North Carolina FA Parking.

There is one entrance with a few workers scanning tickets for entrance. There are off duty police officers providing security and lightly checking purses and bags coming into the stadium area. There are no digital tickets and tickets purchased online can be picked up at Will Call or printed at home.

The entrance area is where the concessions stands are located and the area is large enough that fans move around freely shopping, looking around and finding their way to their seats. There is a great view of the field as soon as you have your ticket scanned and enter the stadium as well as concessions and bathrooms. All of the facilities are clean and well maintained.

Return on Investment 3

Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park provides entertainment that the whole family can go to. This entertainment might be slightly pricey for some considering the tame atmosphere of this venue.

The cost of admission for regular season games range from $10 – $69 per seat. The cost of a food item (hot dog / sandwich) and a drink item (soda / beer) together will range from $10 – $20. The parking is free. The entrance prices are okay but the entertainment is less than what live pro sports should be.

Money can be saved on tickets by purchasing season tickets or a multi game flex package.

Extras 1

Minor league soccer always surprises me with the number of in-game promotions.

Unlike minor league baseball or hockey, there are no game stoppages during which to run promos.The team, like other NASL and USL teams, announce games and contests while the ball is in play.

Final Thoughts

I went expecting more excitement and fan participation and what I got was a tame unappreciated soccer game.I’m not sure if the atmosphere that I experienced will be helpful in North Carolina FC’s push to become one of the newest MLS teams in the near future.

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