May 14, 2021 | SPORTS | By Will Taylor | Photo by Bibi Powers
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks, one of 31 teams that compete in the United Soccer League Championship, started the 2021 season on May 1 with a 3-0 away loss against San Antonio FC. The Switchbacks are back on the road to face Sporting Kansas City II on May 14 before returning to the Springs for the Grand Home Opener at Weidner Field on May 21 against New Mexico United.
The Switchbacks, who have played six seasons in the USL, will undertake their seventh season in the newly built Weidner Field, a $50 million project. The 145,500-square-foot stadium boasts a synthetic turf field with organic infill, and is able to seat 8,000 spectators.
The new stadium is part of a $2.3 billion downtown redevelopment project that includes the new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, according to the Switchback’s website. Weidner Field is set to be the highest elevated professional stadium in the USL Championship at 6,035 ft.
With state-of-the-art facilities and great views of Pikes Peak, Weidner Field will hope to be a venue for not only soccer matches but for concerts and other community events. When not being used for sports, additional seating can be placed on the field to increase capacity to 15,000.
“I feel like we lose a lot of our entertainment dollars locally to Denver,” said James Ragain, Vice President of the Switchbacks. “Now with a bigger-sized venue we can fit 15,000 people and bring in bigger artists and for the Springs and Pueblo to enjoy, and not have to go all the way up to Denver.”
The Colorado College commencement ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 will be held at Weidner Field at the end of May.
Weidner Field is not the only new addition to the Switchback’s organization. Head coach Brendan Burke, who was appointed in December 2020, will bring over a decade of experience coaching in both the USL and MLS. He has previously coached for Reading United, the Northeastern Huskies, and Bethlehem Steel FC.
“Changing the identity of a team and of a club is really hard to do, but I think we’ve made strides during preseason,” Burke said. “It doesn’t happen overnight — it doesn’t even happen in a few months — but I think the mentality has been really good and a lot of work has been put in to try and start to shift the expectations around here.”
The Switchbacks have officially announced that Jimmy Ockford, who has previously played for the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS, will be the team captain for the 2021 season.
“Jimmy has been in a number of big environments and won a lot of games at this level,” Burke said. “He is a steady, strong leader and a very good defender, we are lucky to have him leading us into a new period in our club’s development.”
Philip Mayaka, a midfielder from Kenya, said the Switchbacks are “a good group, there’s competition and, as you can see from the last game, everyone is trying to be on the first team and that’s what’s needed. This is a young team, so we need to keep going.”
With 31 games remaining in the regular season, there is still a lot of soccer to be played before any judgements can be made about the changes to the Switchbacks team. The 14 remaining home games leave ample time for fans to catch a match and enjoy the new stadium. With individual tickets starting around $15, and season tickets starting at $206.55, Switchback games are also relatively affordable.
All matches are broadcast on ESPN+ and home matches are available locally on CW & FOX for those who would rather enjoy games from home.