Home away from home: Phoenix Rising set for next move near Sky Harbor

Phoenix Rising FC tends to draw a passionate fan base wherever it plays. The club is leaving its home at Wild Horse Pass for a new facility near Sky Harbor Airport. (Photo by Rudy Aguado/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC fans are no strangers to change. After calling Wild Horse Pass home for the past two seasons, the team will once again be on the move after a five-year lease was recently approved for a new stadium north of Sky Harbor International Airport.

Under the club’s current ownership group, the new location will mark the team’s third move. In 2017, Rising called Casino Arizona Field home. The franchise moved to the Wild Horse Pass location in 2021. Phoenix will play its first game in the new stadium next March during the 2023 USL regular season.

A quick turnaround is possible. Casino Arizona Field, a pop-up facility located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, was constructed in just two months.

Rising General Manager Bobby Dulle is looking forward to a more fan-friendly location.

“We had a good relationship with the Gila River Community,” Dulle told Cronkite News. “It’s a great facility, great location, and great people involved. They have some other plans for the location and for us. When an opportunity presents itself to be more central and work with the City of Phoenix, it made a lot of sense for us as an organization.”

The new stadium is set to be built on 38th Street and Washington Street, once the location of Phoenix Greyhound Park. More recently, it has served as the home of Phoenix Park ‘n Swap, a flea market.

The new agreement includes the option of adding a sportsbook, something that wasn’t possible at Wild Horse Pass because of sports gambling restrictions on land owned by Native American tribes.

The new location also allows access to the stadium through public transportation, a bonus for fans who couldn’t commute to games last season. Valley Metro Light Rail has a stop at 38th Street/Gateway Community College, directly across from the future stadium’s location.

Susan Tierney, communications manager for Valley Metro, suggested the possibility of a partnership between Valley Metro and Phoenix Rising on match days.

“Valley Metro is very happy that we can take people in the future to that new Phoenix Rising stadium,” she said. “We have a partnership with Footprint Center that, if you purchase an event ticket, your ride on light rail is included. And we would love to have that same partnership with both Chase Field and with the new Phoenix Rising stadium.”

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Dulle, who is in his seventh year as general manager of the team, says he’s thrilled about the opportunities that come with a close proximity to public transportation. The only options fans had this past season was the organization’s Pub2Pitch program for home games, which takes fans from select bars around the Valley to the game and then back to the bars.

“It’s fantastic to have public transportation, whether that be the light rail that stops right at the front door or the programs we will do like Pub2Pitch,” he said. “Any time you have public transportation, that’s a big opportunity to capitalize on and make things a little more accessible for our fans.”

The Rising will “move the current stadium to the new site,” the team said, and club officials remain confident the facility will be ready to welcome fans for Rising’s first home game next season.

In 2022, the Rising’s average attendance dropped to an average of 6,401 fans per game, down from the 6,679 the club drew in 2021, according to Soccer Stadium Digest. Despite a minimal decline, the team’s struggles on the pitch last season certainly didn’t help the turnout for home games.

But optimism lies ahead. Rising fan Tyler Odon said he’s looking forward to the move, although he believes the product on the pitch is more important than the location of the stadium.

“I think it’s a great move, the new spot will help grow the game because it’s a lot more centralized,” he said. “Moving from that last spot, where we really were stagnating, is turning a new page in the book of the franchise. In the new house, you forget about the problems sometimes, so I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’ll be there.”

Rising fans hope this news, along with the hiring of coach Juan Guerra in August, is the start of a successful era of Rising soccer.

In October, the team sent out a letter to season ticket holders, stating that the organization was unsure where the team would be playing home games in 2023. Now, Phoenix Rising fans have their answer.

The new central location will likely be the team’s new home for the next five seasons, although the lease is structured in a series of one-year options.

“We can’t make it a long-term solution, there are some future plans there with the airport,” Dulle said. “But for the next five years, we plan on that being home, and beyond that is to be determined.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ciaran Doyle expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Doyle, who has covered high school sports for AZPreps365.com, is working for Cronkite Sports.

Rudy Aguado(he/him/his)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Rudy Aguado expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Aguado is interning with the Arizona Interscholastic Association and has collaborated with AZPreps365.