It’s been somewhat common knowledge since the beginning of the season that the Hounds would need to expand Highmark Stadium in the near future, if not this offseason, to meet USSF Division 2 standards. Well since the offseason is upon us it’s time to start making those plans. As reported by John K over at DKPittsburghSports.com General Manager Kevin Johnston has confirmed that once the season wraps up on the 14th the Hounds will get the ball rolling on adding seats to the stadium.
For those who may not be aware Division 2 standards require a team to play in stadiums with at least 5,000 seating capacity. I’ve seen some back and forth, but from what I understand this does not include standing room only. Seating being the key word. Highmark Stadium as it currently sits clocks in at 3,500 seats. This means the Hounds will need to add approx. 1,500 chairs before kick off in 2018. 1,500 doesn’t sound like a lot, but compared to the current capacity it’s nearly a 50% increase in butt real-estate. While Kevin was coy about where the seats would go, the only obvious location from a space perspective is our neck of the woods in the east end. Currently the Paul Child Stand seats about 550 spread across 4 sections. Section 101, the grandstand section closest to us, seats around 350. If you take the layout of section 101, which is about the same width as the east end sections, and times it by 4 you get 1,400. Pretty much right on the money. Whether or not we’ll get full seats like the main grandstand is another thing entirely. As bankruptcy showed us a couple years ago the Hounds aren’t made of money. I’m tempering my expectations and figure the expansion to be pretty basic, possibly even bleachers. That said if we can’t get safe standing for the supporters section (HINT HINT HOUNDS), I’d actually consider bleachers a step up from what we have now for the standing supporters crowd.
Obviously 1,400 doesn’t get us all the way there. In John’s article it was mentioned the Hounds are also considering adding seats to the river side of the stadium. A bit of a surprise, but it makes some sense. While there is no room for a full stand, I can see a single row of seats like how you see in some MLS stadiums behind the ad boards. I’m sure the standing room crowd won’t be happy, but there isn’t many options for the Hounds unless they fill in the corner between the Paul Child Stand and the grandstand. If they do add seats along the river side I hope for the sake of people who buy tickets over there the Hounds add a small clock / score board on the media box.
Adding 1,500 seats is a pretty significant expansion, especially when the team only averages just north of 2,500 people a game. Having a stadium be 75% full is a much better look than 50%. In the end though I think most of us approve of the expansion for the simple fact of keeping the Hounds in Division 2. Playing at the highest level possible should always be the goal (calm down pro/rel people). If the Hounds can string together a better home record in 2018, Highmark could get rocking again.
The Hounds are back home on Saturday as they take on the Rochester Rhinos. It’s the last match of the Old Guard Shield and a win clinches it for us. Kick off is at 7 pm. Tailgate starts at 4.