Sky Blue FC goes 'next level,' makes Red Bull Arena home for 2020

Cassandra Negley
Yahoo Sports Contributor
USWNT star Carli Lloyd and Sky Blue FC have a new home in Red Bull Arena. (Howard Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Sky Blue FC announced Monday it will play all 2020 home games at the soccer-specific Red Bull Arena, a move that expands the team’s attendance capacity, fan access and amenities from Rutgers University’s Yurcak Field.

Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, is home to the New York Red Bulls of MLS and hosted two Sky Blue matches this season after the World Cup. Sky Blue general manager Alyse LaHue said in a release the her team’s move builds on the “positive momentum we gained last season and will help propel our club and the league to the next level.”

The club set a team attendance record in August when 9,415 fans watched them play Reign FC. The match featured USWNT stars Carli Lloyd for Sky Blue as well Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long for Reign.

The Sky Blue FC season finale against the Orlando Pride, which was USWNT and Pride striker Sydney Leroux’s first game back after giving birth to her daughter, was also moved to Red Bull Arena due to “increased ticket demand.” The 10-year-old venue is a premier site for soccer events and has hosted both U.S. national teams, the MLS All-Star game and matches featuring club giants such as Chelsea and Manchester City.

Sky Blue owner representative Tammy Murphy said in the team release:

“We’re thrilled to partner with the Red Bulls to expand support for professional women’s soccer. Last season demonstrated that we are ready to take our players and fans to the next level.”
 
“This move provides our professional athletes with the top-notch facilities they deserve and gives our growing fanbase increased access via public transit and an enhanced game day experience.”

The stadium holds up to 25,000 fans, five times as many as the 5,000 fans Yurcak Stadium can hold at Rutgers. Sky Blue averaged 2,233 fans per match at Yurcak and 8,865 fans per match at Red Bull Arena, per Howard Megdal for Forbes. That totals 17,729 for two matches at the Red Bulls’ home and 17,729 for 10 matches at Rutgers.

Red Bull Arena is more easily accessible by public transportation and is closer to New York City. The stadium has better amenities all around with seats yards from the touchlines, a partial roof and better, more accessible concession stands. It all makes going to a match far easier and more enjoyable. That will help boost attendance at Sky Blue and NWSL.

Sky Blue FC was a founding member of the W-League in 2006 and came in to the NWSL as a founding member of that league. A move to Red Bull Arena is not only big for women’s soccer, but a big jump from where the club was a year ago.

Reports cited major problems with the facilities and how players were treated, which included no showers at the practice facility, rental houses in disrepair and work-related expenses coming out of players’ pockets. The team, owned by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, announced in February upgrades would be made and first lady Tammy Murphy would take a more active role in the club.

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