Stadium is ‘no brainer’ for soccer teams

Written By Alex Stumpf

The Point Park men’s and women’s soccer teams will call a new stadium home this year, as they move from Founders Field to the new Highmark Stadium located in Station Square.“It’s a no brainer,” said Point Park Director of Athletics Dan Swalga during an afternoon phone interview on Aug. 21. “We have a state of the art stadium within walking distance of the campus.”The soccer teams will share Highmark Stadium with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League. Swalga said that Point Park’s good relationship with the Riverhounds, which includes sharing men’s head coach and Riverhounds assistant Jeroen Walstra, factored into the change in venue. The stadium, built in April 2013, holds 3,500 seated guests and has a view comparable to PNC Park and Heinz Field, according to Swalga.The stadium’s seating arrangement directs the guests to Pittsburgh’s skyline, just like Pittsburgh’s other two notable professional outdoor sporting facilities.“It is beautiful,” said women’s team captain Angie Abel during an afternoon phone interview on Aug. 25. “We are very grateful that the Riverhounds let us play there.”Highmark Stadium’s close proximity to the University is a welcome change for both clubs, as their previous venue, Founders Field, was located in Chewsick, over 15 miles away from Point Park’s campus. Last season the men’s team averaged 78 fans in attendance at every home game while the women averaged 90. Abel hopes that having the stadium located closer to campus will help attract more fans.“We want to feel more like we’re home and have the home field advantage,” Abel said.Men’s soccer captain Jonty Loukes is also optimistic that the new stadium will attract larger crowds.“People will be in awe of the new stadium,” said Loukes during an afternoon phone interview on Aug. 25.Admission to soccer games are free to Point Park students this season while parking will be the same $6 rate as it is during Riverhounds games.The stadium is expected to also be a key tool in attracting new athletes to the school. “It should be a big boost,” Swalga said. “It’s great marketing for the school.”However, Walstra is unsure how big an impact the change in scenery will make in attracting more players to the University.“Highmark stadium is one aspect [in the recruiting process.] How does it weigh [in]? I don’t know,” said Walstra during an afternoon phone interview on Aug. 25. “It will be positive.”Both teams are coming off of their best seasons in their program’s history. The men’s team finished the 2012 season with an 11-7 regular season record that included a 4-0 conference mark and resulted in winning the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) tournament. The women’s team posted their first winning season in program history last year with a 10-8-1 record in addition to making the playoffs for the first time and reaching the KIAC tournament finals.The women’s home opener is Sep. 5 against West Liberty, while the men’s first game in the new stadium will be Sep. 7 versus Ohio Valley.