| March 17, 2018

Soccer: More Than Just a Match

The rapidly approaching fall season brings a number of things back to campus — students, classes, the changing season and athletic events in the Kibbie Dome. But this fall, the opening excitement in the Dome won’t revolve around football. For the first time ever, the team taking the field will be the Idaho soccer team.

No longer are the days of Vandal soccer fans trekking out to a run-down Guy Wicks field. Instead the women will kick off the season on the new turf inside the Dome. If a change in venue wasn’t exciting enough for the program, the Vandals will be kicking off the season with a game against Idaho’s biggest rival Boise State.

Since the Kibbie Dome turf was due for an update, the idea of bringing soccer indoors was thrown around until it was brought to fruition.

University of Idaho President Chuck Staben said the idea came about in the process of working out a solution to better support the soccer program and improve the field conditions at Guy Wicks field. Due to technical issues on the grass, Staben said the field was not a good place for the team to play or fans to support the program.

“The soccer facilities, unfortunately, have not lived up to the quality our team has,” Staben said. “Guy Wicks field is not a great place to go see a soccer game, is not a great place to play a soccer game. We recognized an opportunity.”

University of Idaho Associate Athletic Director Pete Isakson said they looked into the details of bringing the program indoors and discovered the Kibbie Dome had what it took to become the first ever women’s indoor soccer venue.

“To our research this is the first women’s soccer game ever to be played indoors at the NCAA level and because of that we wanted to go big and do it up right and set records,” Isakson said.

Idaho will aim to get 5,000 fans in the Dome to cheer on the Vandals against Boise State in the inaugural game, a record attendance.

“Our record crowd is a little over 1,000 so that is five times larger than the greatest crowd we have ever had,” Isakson said. “We will certainly do everything we can to get there, and whatever we do is going to be great and definitely push the program forward.”

But Isakson said it is much more than just another match.

“All parts of campus have worked together to put this game on,” he said. “It’s been really neat to see the entire campus community come together for one common goal.”

University of Idaho head coach Derek Pittman said he shares the same belief in the importance of the game for both the University, athletic department, and the athletes.

“I think it is an exciting opportunity for our students, faculty, community members to really get behind Vandal athletics and specifically continuing to support women’s soccer and the championship culture we have here,” Pittman said.

Isakson said the team working to pull the event together is hoping not only to see students in the crowd but members of the Moscow community as well.

“With the youth in this community and the youth programs, we just really encourage them to participate,” he said. “The new venue will also encourage more of the Moscow community to join in on the festivities. We have lights, we can play night games, so those families and atmosphere can take place so we don’t need to play at two in the afternoon when school kids are still in school, or maybe students are still in class. We can play in the evening when students can come watch us play.”

Football fans are familiar with the Kibbie Dome’s amenities and now soccer fans will be too. With indoor soccer comes high tech amenities such as electronic scoreboards, replay video boards and the ability to stream the game to fans in Moscow and beyond, which Isakson said he hopes will help Idaho draw more fans to Vandal soccer.

“All of those sorts of things are enhanced by us playing in the Dome,” he said. “I do think that it gives us a unique atmosphere that obviously no one else in the nation will have. It’s ours, it’s unique to us, and that is something to build on and get excited about.”

The transformation is a step in the right direction for both the athletes and the students. Isakson said Idaho students deserve a good entertainment experience while the players deserve a good crowd of support.

“This soccer team has won two conference championships in a row, they deserve to have that opportunity,” Isakson said. “I would invite every one of our students to come out to the match and experience it. I think you will like what you see.”

With high hopes for a big opening game to kick off the 2017 season, President Staben said he has even higher hopes for games down the road. Although the 2017 attendance goal for the opening game has been set at 5,000 fans, Staben said that wasn’t the original plan.

“My original goal was to set a record for soccer attendance at an NCAA game,” he said. ‘I believe that would be 10,193. I would much rather have 10,193 students, or people, attend this game than 5,000. Maybe next season we would get to 10,000.”

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu

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