The grand opening of Avaya Stadium has been long anticipated by fans of the San Jose Earthquakes. Folks dressed in jerseys from the NASL days of the club, through the early MLS Clash years, and into the present Quakes made their way among the broad concourses of the new stadium, stopping for a pulled pork sandwich or a Beers of the World potent potable. This was a long way removed from the amenities -- or lack thereof -- at previous stops Buck Shaw and Spartan Stadium.
For many of the 18,000 in attendance, the Longest Exterior Bar In North America -- henceforth known as the LOBINA -- was a chief layover on their way to their seats. For some, the LOBINA was the only stop on their journey through the Earthquakes official opening of their wonderful new facility, and they missed out on picking up the new inaugural season of Avaya scarves that were draped over their ultimate destinations. No matter, the Earthquakes 2-1 victory over the Fire was prize enough on the afternoon.
The atmosphere at sold-out Avaya Stadium was as much a celebration of the history of soccer in the Bay Area, the roots of which grow much deeper than just the Earthquakes and their founding in 1974, as it was a chance to relish in the newest centerpiece in the expanding buffet that is Soccer in America. And on such an occasion, one that brought out former players from the NASL days and to the present, the moment was not missed by the elite of Bay Area sportswriting that encamped along the first row of the pressbox.
Leading off this Murders' Row of commentators was ESPNFC's Jeffrey Carlisle, who hustled throughout the stadium to piece together a fantastic tale that weaved together voices from the past and present extolling the virtues of the new permanent home of the Quakes.
Next up was longtime San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy, flanked by his wingman Elliott Almond, tapping out a story about how the Earthquakes should never have left San Jose back in 2005. Purdy almost got MLS commissioner Don Garber to agree with him, but the Soccer Don would only admit his sadness that they had to move to Houston.
There in the third chair was sprightly Ann Killion, who knows a thing or two about big soccer events around the Bay Area. The SFGate and Chronicle columnist weaved a narrative that had villains and heroes, a tale of good versus evil for Earthquakes supporters to enjoy.
And sitting in the cleanup spot, covering the first Earthquakes game of 2015, 19 years after covering the first-ever MLS game back at Spartan Stadium in 1996, was heavy hitter Ray Ratto. The Comcast SportsNet celebrity commentator, who knows a lot more about soccer than most people realize, was very impressed with the new stadium -- especially The Bar. Points off for not referring to The Bar by its proper name, The LOBINA, but Ratto will be back and Earthquakes fans can set him straight.
Four legends of the Bay Area sportswriting scene and four great stories on the grand opening of Avaya Stadium. Which one was your favorite? Did you have another account you want to add to the list? Please share in the comments section below.