For the past seven years, soccer fans in Central New York were treated to some high quality indoor soccer at the Onondaga War Memorial Center in Syracuse. This all came to a halt in April, when the team moved 50 miles east to Utica. Now, Adirondack Bank Center, also known as The Aud, is the new home of Utica City FC. Yesterday, at the team’s intrasquad scrimmage, we were given a glimpse at what to expect this upcoming season. My drive was normally a half hour to forty minutes into downtown Syracuse, usually fighting traffic, especially during SU basketball games. Today, was a completely different experience. The car ride was a little longer, but was mostly on the thruway, so it went by very quickly.
When I arrived at the arena, there was a display showing “oncoming traffic” about the upcoming season. In Syracuse, the Knights were rarely recognized anywhere on the outside of the building. After entering the arena and walking around, there was a buzz in the air. There were tables set up for chances to win jerseys, and a fan zone where season ticket holders could pick up their tickets, or in the case of Utica City FC, a season ticket card. Fans could also purchase season tickets or single-game tickets at that time.
I sat down around where my season tickets were going to be. This is where the biggest difference happened in my opinion. The blue turf is leaps and bounds better than what the players were used to in Syracuse. It blended well with the jerseys as well as the yellow Mitre ball that was used during the game.
From the opening kickoff to the final buzzer, the game was fast paced and very physical. Joey Tavernese opened the scoring for the Blue Team, and proceeded to celebrate by drinking a beer offered to him by a fan in the stands. At halftime, the Blue Team had a 3-1 lead, but in the third quarter, the Black Team scored two quick goals to even the score. In the 4th quarter, the Blue Team regained their two goal lead, and never relinquished it, winning by a 5-3 score. The goal of the match goes to Liam Callahan, rifling a right footer into the upper corner that capped the scoring.
Since this is was the first game for Utica City FC, a couple of huge differences stood out to me. Before the game, there were no player introductions. Instead, players came out a la a Premier League soccer match. Also, in the spirit of the Premier League, music was kept to a minimum, during injury timeouts, and in between quarters. In Syracuse, music blared throughout every play, making it hard to watch. I, personally, enjoy a little bit of music here and there, reminiscent of a hockey game. Not too much, not too little. Another plus was the interview before the game started, as well as at halftime.
I can guarantee you the 1,500 plus fans that weathered a snowy commute left with a positive vibe, and will help #fillthebank December 2nd against a tough Baltimore Blast team. Today’s game was by no means the finished product. There will be some minimal changes, including glass being around the bench, that will take place before that day, making the gameday experience even better.
If you’re a Silver Knights fan that is reading this and are still skeptical, I want you to read this part. On December 2nd, there will be a bus (possibly two), heading to Utica for the home opener. A big concern was the travel during the wintertime. This alleviates any commute you have to endure, and you get a ticket to the game. This reminds me of the buses that used to take us to Rochester games when the Lancers were in the MISL.
Overall, the experience I had in Utica far exceeded my expectations. Kudos go out to everyone at Utica City FC and the Adirondack Bank Center for making today’s exhibition game a complete success.