PHOENIX, Aug. 31, 2016 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ -- The soccer scene in Arizona just got a lot more electric with the opening of a new soccer stadium at Grand Canyon University.
The largest crowd (6,402) ever to see an NCAA soccer game in Arizona witnessed fireworks, music, tailgating, food, entertainment, children lining up for autographs, and a rousing March to the Match by GCU's nationally recognized student section – the Havocs – on Friday night.
Amidst this sea of purple, GCU Stadium was christened with a 4-2 victory by the Antelopes over Central Florida.
Former Team USA soccer star Cobi Jones, who served as an analyst for the television broadcast of the game, has seen his share of soccer venues around the world. He was impressed by the atmosphere at GCU Stadium.
"This is truly one of a kind," Jones said. "To see soccer taken to heart by faculty, administrators, students and management — that's something special."
GCU President Brian Mueller said the evening felt surreal, adding, "This is a big day. Grand Canyon University's brand is getting to be about bringing people together as a community, and soccer is going to be one of those components that does exactly that."
Dawn Rogers, president and CEO of Phoenix Final Four, was in the VIP tailgate along with Mueller and other public figures. Staring at the open field below, Rogers said, "It's so wonderful for soccer players to have a Division I institution in the state of Arizona because there is so much talent. It's impressive to see how GCU continues to evolve and change. It has really made a commitment to students and student athletes."
Grand Canyon is the only NCAA Division I men's soccer program in Arizona. GCU Stadium features chair-back seating for 3,000 on the west side of the field, with 10-foot grass berms surrounding the other three sides and a large platform area on the east side.
GCU alumnus Nick Halonen was with his wife, Keslie, their four children and neighbors. Together, they were a group of 16 in one of the front rows at the stadium's west end.
"This place is crazy!" Halonen said, yelling over the noise of the crowd. "I love how many students are here, and this stadium — it's beautiful!"
The GCU men's soccer team is coached by Schellas Hydman, the sixth all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I history and a former MLS coach of the year.
"I've coached many games in my career, but tonight was special," he said. "It was a huge night for GCU soccer and Grand Canyon University because there was so much expectation and so much hype. I'm so happy, and we're ready to find ways to get better."
The next home game for the GCU men's team is Sept. 15 vs. IUPUI. The women host Northern Arizona on Friday. Remaining home schedules for both are below. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 602-639-8979 or visiting https://www.gcuarena.com/soccer-season-tickets/.
GCU Men's Soccer Home Games
Sept. 15 vs. IUPUI, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Pacific, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. Portland, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. San Jose State, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 vs. Air Force, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Missouri-Kansas City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. Incarnate Word, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 vs. CSU Bakersfield, 2 p.m.
GCU Women's Soccer Home Games
Sept. 2 vs. Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.
Sept. 4 vs. Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Oklahoma, 1 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. CSU Bakersfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Utah Valley, noon
Oct. 21 vs. New Mexico State, 4 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. UT Rio Grande Valley, 1 p.m.
About Grand Canyon University: Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 and is Arizona's premier private Christian university. GCU is regionally accredited and offers more than 200 academic programs for both traditional undergraduate students and working professionals. The University's curriculum emphasizes interaction with classmates, both in-person and online, and individual attention from instructors while fusing academic rigor with Christian values to help students find their purpose and become skilled, caring professionals. For more information, visit gcu.edu.