Wednesday, April 18th of 2018 is a major day in LAFC’s history. Club owners, league and city officials, fans and supporters all gathered to mark the official ribbon cutting ceremony of their new home, Banc of California Stadium, a space that less than two years earlier was occupied only by a hole in the ground left by what once was the historic Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Behind the scenes, what that day marked was a 10-day countdown to make sure the stadium was ready to host 22,000 guests at the first home game in history on April 29th against the Seattle Sounders.
The days were long and arduous, but those moments leading up to the first-ever match showed Los Angeles and the sports world that LAFC was a serious Club.
“A lot of people didn’t think that this fabulous facility would be completed, but it has been, and it’s one of the best facilities not only in all of soccer, but in any major sport,” said legendary Los Angeles Sportscaster Jim Hill. “It just goes to show you that here in Los Angeles we are indeed, the sports capital of the world.”
LAFC opened the match with Navy Seals parachuting onto the pitch with the match ball. Co-Owner Will Ferrell carried one of LAFC’s prized falcons, Olly, on his forearm in leading the first “falcon flight,” a ritual that persists before every home match to this day.
The Hollywood beginning of course deserved a Hollywood ending as then-captain Laurent Ciman rocketed a free kick past Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei in the waning minutes of the game to give LAFC the win.
It was a true spectacle, but the first game day experience showed that the fans and 3252 provided all the atmosphere and energy that was needed. The safe standing section chanted, led choreographed songs and jumped about all match long. It was apparent from the beginning that soccer culture was alive and well in the heart of Los Angeles, and major publications across the nation started to notice.
“The now-famous 3252 supporters of LAFC have taken fan engagement to an art form, as they mirror the most rabid fans in all of Europe with their unity, passion, and energy throughout a match when playing on home turf at Banc of California Stadium in downtown Los Angeles,” FORBES Magazine wrote in their July, 2019 edition. “To be honest, I don't recall a fan base as passionate and fun to witness during a sporting event than the 3252 when LAFC is playing at the Banc.”
Then the awards started coming. Not only did the Banc turn heads locally, earning such awards as Los Angeles Business Council’s Grand Prize for Hospitality & Attractions in June, 2019, but the team quickly jumped into the national radar. The Club and Stadium were named number one in Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies in the Live Events category. The Banc also earned an early nomination for “Sports Facility of the Year”, in the Sports Business Journal’s 2019 annual Sports Business Awards.
Not only did the Banc host raucous LAFC matchdays, but in the last four years it has been the site of major concerts, music festivals, tv shows, movie premieres and more. It has welcomed sold out events such as the Rolling Loud International hip hop festival as well as the iconic Iron Maiden to events like HBO’s Insecure festival and the Adult Swim Music and Comedy festival.
Fast forward to 2020, and the global COVID-19 pandemic ravaged live events. Concerts were cancelled and LAFC games were played with no fans.
But now, as the Banc turns four, it is almost as if we have been transported back to 2018, as the “re-opening” of the Banc continues. Prior to the 2021 opening matches, the Club spent more long, arduous days strategizing how best to accommodate the first limited and physically distanced fans. On the eve of another match hosting the Seattle Sounders, the Club worked with the L.A. Department of Health to create a vaccinated section and allow fans to yet again stand shoulder to shoulder to cheer on the Club.
Concerts are filling up the calendar again too. Musical act Rufus Du Sol plays three consecutive nights in mid-November. Santana featuring Earth Wind and Fire has been rescheduled, with more coming quickly.
LAFC did not get the win on April 24, 2021 vs. Seattle like they managed to in their first-ever home match, but they got something better -- their heart and soul and their community. The stadium is not yet allowed to be full, but the sounds of fans and the 3252 made their way to the pitch as strong as ever.
“Obviously the fans are very important to this club and it felt very good,” said LAFC forward Danny Musovski, who despite entering his second year in Black & Gold, still had not played in front of the home crowd. “Although it was, around 5,000 people, I swear that it felt like it was 18,000 people because it was so loud and they brought so much energy and that energy transferred to us on the field, and that was special.”
Get ready for many more special nights at Banc of California Stadium in the near future.