A night to shout about: GCU Stadium set to open
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
The face of soccer in the Valley will change dramatically Friday night when Grand Canyon University officially opens its gleaming new facility, GCU Stadium, for its men’s soccer season opener against Central Florida.
“It’s going to be full of energy, it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be crazy,” said Helen Bleach, director of university relations and events. “There’s already so much excitement around the stadium, but with students, families and the Havocs on campus this will be a culmination of Welcome Week and University soccer. This is a big deal.”
The grand-opening game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the intimate new facility on the west side of campus, which seats 3,000 fans and has 10-foot berms on three sides that will bring the capacity to 6,000.
But a lot will be happening before the match.
Burgers, tacos, cotton candy and push-pops will be sold along Lopes Way, and the Havocs, GCU’s student cheering section, will lead the pregame March to the Match, which starts at 6:30 on Lopes Way. Students will march through campus to the stadium, and the Havocs will storm the field to amp up the celebration. They will have their own platform in the stadium to get wild, crazy and loud during the match.
“People will have a chance to get their faces painted, the band will be playing music and the Havocs will be screaming our own soccer chants,” said Karsten Kem, vice president of the Havocs. “Every student on campus is a Havoc, and this is our chance to maximize our intensity.”
At halftime, teams of children will have an opportunity to play a scrimmage. Everyone in attendance will get a GCU soccer T-shirt, which will give them food discounts at future games, and there will be a giant fireworks display at the end of the night.
Schellas Hyndman, GCU men’s soccer coach, knows the significance of hosting the first of many soccer games at the new stadium. To put it in perspective, he uses the word “relevant” to describe the impact of soccer in the surrounding GCU community.
“Soccer is going to matter here. We’re going to build a tradition and a strong soccer program so that it becomes one of the things that people mention when they talk about GCU,” he said. “Anyone can host a soccer game, but we’re trying to create an event where even little kids who don’t understand soccer are just enjoying the fireworks. This is an opportunity for history … an opportunity to make Phoenix a home for soccer.”
Hyndman, who was introduced as GCU’s coach last year, has an unquenchable passion for the sport.
“We train very hard and when we’re out on the field we know there are expectations, so we know to be out there at our best,” he said. “When I talk about what’s special about this team … immediately, the experience these players have. They are players everyone in the country wanted. Secondly, these players understand the concept of teamwork, and that’s what has made this preseason amazing.”
Here are three key GCU players to watch at the game:
Niki Jackson: Appeared in 16 games last year, started 12 and ranked second on the team in goals (nine) and fifth in the Western Athletic Conference in shots per game.
Damian German: In 2015, Damian was one of only four GCU players to start in all 17 games. The Phoenix native recorded six points, tied for third on the team, with two goals and two assists. Hyndman said the forward has “rich soccer experience essential to play at higher level.”
Alexandros “Alex” Halis: The senior midfielder has played in 13 games in 2015 and tied for first on the team with four assists and tied for third with six points. He also ranked fifth in the WAC in assists per game.
This will be the first of nine men’s home matches at GCU Stadium this season. The second match is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, against IUPUI.
The GCU’s women’s team will play its home opener against UTEP at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at email@example.com or (602) 639-6631.