Highmark Stadium to add 1,000 seats to meet U.S. Soccer requirements

20 October 2017

Highmark Stadium will look a little different when the Riverhounds take the field in 2018.

The United Soccer League was granted provisional Division 2 sanctioning by the United States Soccer Federation at the beginning of 2017. In order to maintain Division 2 status for next season, USL teams are required to meet Federation guidelines pertaining to stadium size, field dimensions or coach licensing.

The Riverhounds meet two of the three requirements, but with 3,500 seats and a maximum capacity of 4,000, the stadium falls short of the required 5,000 capacity minimum required to meet Federation standards. So the stadium is undergoing an expansion project to reach the required capacity.

The Riverhounds are one of eight teams that fall short of the minimum capacity standard of 5,000 seats, according to SI.com. The USL requested four waivers for the 2017 season, and USL president Jake Edwards vowed that all teams will be compliant before the 2018 season.

“[USL teams have] known for a little while that we were doing it,” USL executive vice president Tom Veit said during a phone interview. “When we made provisional division II status for the 2017 season and then we’ve applied for full status for the 2018 season, and as part of that we have to have all of our teams comply with stadium guidelines.”

Riverhounds owner Tuffy Shallenberger doesn’t have a timeline for when the expansion project will begin, but he anticipates it being a quick process that will wrap up before the 2018 season begins.

Shallenberger said the added capacity will aid the venue’s bids to stage more events in the future. But it’s unclear if the additional seats will encourage more fans to attend. The Riverhounds averaged 2,639 fans per game this season, 17th overall out of 30 teams.

“It’ll open it up for more venues down there, a little bit more capacity,” Shallenberger said. “We have a lot of things in the works for next year. I think it’s going to be a little different from what people have seeing in the past here. We’ve been working hard at getting events lined up for next year that we’ll start announcing for next year. It’s going to help us bring in some bigger events.”

Shallenberger said the costs will be minimal for stadium expansion, which will require the team to add a handful of rows of seats in several sections. The team filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2014, citing stadium construction costs as the primary factor. Highmark Stadium opened in 2013 and had an initial budget of $10.2 million.

The team reorganized and was clear of bankruptcy by the end of 2014.