"South Stand" at SkyDome - Kristin Knowles
For the second year in a row the Reds started their season in the cavernous, concrete confines of SkyDome. Until BMO is properly winterized we had best get used to turf, the announcer from the monster truck rally and live anthem performances.
Straight off - WHEEEE!! THEY WON!!!! OK, had to get that out of my system. It's an odd feeling isn't it? To feel kind of hopeful about our Reds? Days later and I'm still uncertain as to how to deal with this feeling of, what is that, optimism? Hope for the future? Not being filled with rage, despair and cynicism after a game; again? All of the above. But I'll take it - I'd rather be confused yet happy than, well almost everything I felt last season.
It was truly fun to watch our boys in the first half - the shape, the defense, Bostock and his sweet, sweet moves and of course the goals. What a home debut for Robert Earnshaw - MLS Player of the Week - a brace started off with a true striker's instinct on that first goal. And possibly one of the most enjoyable goal scoring celebrations by a TFC player - love the Ole move. Even the flat second half couldn't completely dampen the enjoyment of Saturday afternoon's performance. Plus they did win so there's that too.
But on to the 'Dome "experience". It's a different type of experience than what we have at our true home of BMO Field. Last year's CCL match against the LA Galaxy was a special moment with the Dome close to full of loud, raucous football fans for one of the few positives that supporters of TFC were to experience last season. Yesterday the fans were not as numerous as the announced crowd of 25,991 was only a few thousand more than a sold out BMO Field. Although, if the demand for seats at BMO was that high again I'd be delighted. Props to just about all in attendance, as much to my surprise the vast majority were in their seats for kickoff and were there ready to cheer on our Reds. And nicely done by the various supporter groups for the banners and flags, and for packing the "south stand" at the Dome for the match.
But...you knew there had to be a but right? When you have a giant, non-football specific space like the SkyDome - yes I'm going to keep calling it the SkyDome - unless it's full to the rafters no matter how noisy you are, how loudly you cheer it gets lost. Even before the game started the less than intimate nature of the venue was apparent. From the gaping 'neutral zone' between the supporter section and the actual, well I hesitate to call it the pitch but we'll go with that; to the odd sight lines, to putting that odd smattering of of fans up in the 500s (really, why?) it lacks what you get in our home down at BMO. That closeness, the noise; the you know, being outside that you can't and never will experience at the Dome.
And the moment that should have kicked the match off, that should have set the place off was lost - the farewell to Frings. We all know that Frings is not one to seek the spotlight, but that moment seemed truly lost as just another bit of pre-game noise. Picture that same moment at BMO - with the stands full - with the fans giving a true ovation to our former captain, the best to ever wear the badge. And while I'm glad that they gave us the opportunity to say good-bye, it felt like a wasted moment, a lost moment and one I wish they'd saved until the 30th for our true home opener.
I don't even want to talk about the authoritarian security, the announcer from the monster truck rally, the 'straight from the auto show' KIA display, the lineup announcement that came as the game was about to kickoff or the misfiring confetti cannons. Actually the confetti cannons part was hilariously awful - unless they weren't confetti cannons. If not, then what the hell was the point? But still, hilarious.
It's not that I don't understand the challenges that are faced at BMO - burst pipes suck, the safety of the fans has to come first - I won't argue that at all, I'm all for safety. But the fans have shown that we are more than willing to sit in the freezing cold to watch our team. The home opener in 2011 was played in sub-zero temperatures; yet we filled the stands, shouted ourselves hoarse and we'd gladly do it time and again. The SkyDome is not OUR home - it is a baseball stadium that doubles for that other 'football' team from time to time. But it is not now, nor has it ever been meant for our club. No matter how much turf you lay down, or marches you organize or beer sponsored scarves you give out, it's not BMO and I don't want it to be.
I try not to linger too much on the extra dollars that matches at the Dome must bring in; to not think of how those dollars could be used to get BMO properly winterized. To maybe someday (please!) put a roof of some sort - hell, we'll take an overhang - over the south and east stands; imagine the atmosphere and noise 21,000 fans could generate in such a stadium. But most of all, to not have to play these "special" matches at the SkyDome. Because until that happens get used to having two home openers every year - the glitzy one and the real one. Home Sweet Dome? Not so much.