Riverhounds to build soccer stadium in Station Square

| Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012

In a move that could help professional soccer thrive in the Pittsburgh sports scene, the Riverhounds will open a new, 3,500-seat stadium late this summer in Station Square.

Riverhounds CEO Jason Kutney said the project will be funded by private investors.

The team will make the official announcement and release renderings of the new facility this morning.

The stadium will be located partly where the Trib Total Media Amphitheater sits and partly on the parking lot between the amphitheater and the Gateway Clipper. The amphitheater will be demolished or moved.

The agreement with Forest City Enterprises, which owns Station Square, was two years in the making. After focusing largely on youth development since acquiring the franchise rights in 2007, Kutney said the organization felt it was time to shift its focus to the professional aspect of the operation.

"(The Riverhounds) have always been professional in the sense that the players are paid and we charge an entrance fee, but they've never been professional in Pittsburgh's mind," Kutney said. "In our opinion, to be considered professional, it was integral to be Downtown."

The Pittsburgh Passion women's football team also has signed an agreement to play at the facility, and the Riverhounds are in talks with two local universities, two rugby clubs and a number of other groups, including youth and high school soccer and lacrosse teams.

The facility, which Kutney hopes will be ready to open in August, will include corporate suites and a bar and grill, and it also could host other events in addition to sports, including live music.

The Riverhounds have been playing at Chartiers Valley High School, where Kutney said they averaged about 1,500 fans last year. Prior to Chartiers Valley, the Riverhounds played at Consol Energy Park (formerly Falconi Field) in Washington, Pa., and also have called the Moon Area High School and Bethel Park High School stadiums home.

"This gives is an actual home to play," said coach Justin Evans, who was the first player drafted by the Riverhounds and has been with the organization on and off since 1999. "It's been a long time coming. It's a game-changer for the organization."

The Riverhounds were 7-11-6 last year and, for the first time in the franchise history, made the playoffs for the second straight season. They return 13 of 22 players for the upcoming season, which runs from April through August. They play in the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division, which is considered Division III and sits two steps below Major League Soccer in the sport's hierarchy in the U.S.

Kutney said the Riverhounds understand the market for soccer and would never set out to build a sprawling, 15,000-seat complex. But the team also doesn't consider moving to a large facility a daunting risk.

"This is the first time we're entering the market feeling like we can provide the amenities and resources for parents who want to come out and watch the games," he said. "It's a step toward developing a pro soccer culture in Pittsburgh."

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