Editorial – Historically much has been made of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks home advantage, coming primarily from their stadium’s elevation at a quite literally breath-taking 6,600 feet. However, that high-altitude advantage has increasing been eroded the past couple of seasons by what’s been underfoot.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks Home Disadvantage
The field, in its present condition, is quite simply not fit for a professional soccer team. It’s barely even suitable for a recreational team. In fact, the recreational men’s league in Colorado Springs long since abandoned that location, favoring the Air Force Academy fields. Take a moment to really absorb that: men’s knock-about teams are playing on better fields every weekend than the city’s USL professional soccer team.
More potato patch than professional playing surface, the ‘pitch’ at Weidner Field has become an embarrassment.
The field at ‘Fortress Sand Creek,’ as the Switchbacks fan-faithful affectionately term it, was never primo to begin with. But it has gotten noticeably worse over the past couple of seasons culminating in the poor playing surface that we see today. So, what can be done to improve it?
The Colorado Springs Parks & Rec Department has ultimate responsibility for the field. Despite the fact the Switchbacks have sunk the by-now-familiar figure of over $3 million dollars into turning a rudimentary athletic field with concrete bleachers into a professional soccer venue, club ownership appears to have very little say regarding the City’s maintenance of the playing surface.
The sprinkler system is inadequate, as demonstrated by the many large patches of brown tufts untouched by it. The field doesn’t appear to be rolled or mowed regularly, or at least not as regularly as it needs. I’m sure Parks & Rec would argue that their limited budget does not allow for a more intensive maintenance regiment.
So that being the case, how badly do the parties involved want to resolve the situation? The Switchbacks are undoubtedly anxious to address it, but how about those that run the city their team calls home?
Though the Switchbacks don’t pay for field maintenance, a portion of the sizable parking fees on game day do filter back to the City. The parking lot requires very little ongoing maintenance, so surely an agreement could be reached to have some of that revenue redirected so that Colorado Springs professional soccer team has a playing surface at least equal to that of its recreational counterparts?
The Switchbacks want to play fast, high pressure, incisive passing soccer, but their home field puts them at a distinct disadvantage. One could argue that both teams, the home team, and the visitors, have to play on the same surface. The difference is that the visitors are often times happy with a tie on the road as was evident during the Switchbacks most recent home game, a dour 0-0 versus Seattle Sounders 2.
The Switchbacks try to move the ball with pace and purpose, whilst the traveling team is generally content to sit in and soak up the pressure – and the field helps them do that. A bad bobble, a wayward touch off a hop, a change in ball pace over an uneven surface can all contribute to a breakdown in play. As Switchbacks President Nick Ragain puts it, ‘for our home field to be a real advantage, we need a fast, smooth surface to play on.’ The players agree. Several have voiced how ‘terrible’ the pitch is, and that they don’t enjoy playing on it. Who can blame them?
If further evidence were needed, consider the Switchbacks home vs road performances this season. Their most fluid, most entertaining soccer – and most goals scored – have occurred on the road. It’s a great shame that Colorado Springs, ‘Olympic City, USA,’ can’t currently offer more of that to its home fans.