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Rising in the city, Phoenix delighted by accessibility, potential of new venue site

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 12/21/22, 10:00AM EST


Central location set to bring new fans, heightened gameday experience as club begins next chapter

Phoenix Rising FC's 10,000-capacity venue will have a new home starting in the 2023 season with the location at 38th and Washington Street inside the city limits one the club has long desired. | Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

In 2016, the then-newly minted ownership group at Phoenix Rising FC was surveying potential sites around the region which could house a new soccer-specific venue.

One that drew their interest?

A 10-acre tract of land near Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport at 38th and Washington Street.

Unfortunately, at that time, a deal just wasn’t on the horizon.

Six years later, though, Rising FC has the central home it once aspired to.

And that means the next chapter in its history could prove the most successful yet.

“It’s really central, it’s accessible to all, and it’s really going to bring us more fans and different fans,” said Rising FC Governor and co-owner Bill Kraus recently. “You used to have to own a car and basically drive out of city and park at the venue. Now, you could be in downtown Phoenix, in central Phoenix, you could be in Tempe at Arizona State, you could be a lot of places and get to our venue within 10 minutes. We’re really excited about the accessibility for transportation, the visibility, and just that central location. I think it’s a winner.”

The accessibility of a central location is the most important element for Rising FC’s new home.

The 38th Street stop on Phoenix’s Light Rail system sits across the road. Two local bus routes are also within walking distance. There are also aims to incorporate pregame tailgating, a highly desired gameday element not previously available to fans.

Since the club's rebranding prior to the 2017 USL Championship season, Phoenix Rising FC has developed one of the best gameday atmospheres in the league. | Photo courtesy Ashley Orellana / Phoenix Rising FC

The second crucial element is the control the club will have over the gameday experience. While Rising FC remains appreciative to its former landlords at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Wild Horse Pass in the Gila River Indian Community, the new venue offers an unprecedented level of oversight.

That means between pregame and postgame promotions, or the opportunity to bring in more local vendors and food and beverage partners, the club can guide the experience.

“I think you know, our top priority has always been about the gameday fan experience,” said Rising FC General Manager Bobby Dulle. “We’re in the event business as well, and we want people who are spending their hard-earned money to come out and support our club to have a good time, and we want to have a good time from the moment they start driving, or ride sharing, or jumping on public transportation to get to the facility to the moment they leave.

“We want everything in-between to be a fun, friendly environment where people are comfortable and can afford to have a good time. So, for us, the fan experience is always very top of mind, and we feel that this is the first time that we’re going to be able to positively impact and influence all those decisions.”

That a deal with the Phoenix City Council was now an attractive proposition on both sides speaks to the respect that Rising FC has built within the city and the region since the ownership group led by Berke Bakay took the reins. The broad collection of local investors and well-known names brought into the club, the successful rebrand to Rising FC, and the prominent signings and success the club achieved expanded its local connections, allowing it to ingrain itself in the city’s sporting landscape.

The club’s leadership capitalized on the opening, bringing local leaders to experience what the club had to offer in person. That in turn strengthened relationships. As Rising FC grew – adding its Academy program and additional investment in community activations – the opportunity came to move inside Phoenix’s city limits for the first time in club history.

City of Phoenix representative Christine Mackay and Councilmember Carlos Garcia welcome Rising FC representatives GM Bobby Dulle, Co-Owner Brandon McCarthy, Co-Owner and Governor Bill Kraus and Owner and Alternate Governor Tim Riester to the city.

A month on from the agreement, preparations are now well underway for the modular stadium’s arrival at its new location.

It won’t be the race against time the side faced in 2017, when it took just 53 days from ground being moved to the venue’s opening night. From Dulle’s perspective, though, the new location will offer a reset for Rising FC as it looks to rebound back to the top of the Western Conference on the field under Head Coach Juan Guerra.

“We're hitting the reset on where our stadium is and elements of the fan experience and our activating and getting out in the community, and we're also hitting the reset button on the field this past season,” said Dulle. “We’re excited about some of the additions to the technical staff. We’re excited about the players that we’ve signed to complement the pieces we have returning, and we’re hoping to create that same buzz and same energy that we and our fans are accustomed to. Hopefully we can get trophies, including the one thing in the USL Championship that we haven’t done. That’s the focus of our group.”

With the USL Championship also positioned to start the next chapter of its story next year – with new venues, training facilities and clubs arriving before the 2026 Men’s World Cup on these shores – the central accessibility Rising FC can now offer is set to drive the club and the sport in Arizona to new heights.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of soccer right now in North America,” said Dulle. “And for me it’s really important for kids in the sport to grow, for people to come out to watch it and see it. Seeing the level of play, you’re seeing the investment in players and infrastructure at the USL that is growing exponentially. It’s really high-quality soccer, and it has come a long way in the last couple of years. For kids to be able to get to experience that in person, I think it's only going to help the sport.”

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