Sirrine Stadium has been a staple of downtown Greenville for over 80 years. It has served as the home of Furman University athletics, the Greenville Lions soccer team, and is currently home to the Greenville High School Red Raiders’ soccer, football, and lacrosse teams.
On Tuesday, a new inhabitant was announced for the historic downtown venue. Greenville FC announced that for their second season, they would be moving from Eugene Stone Stadium at Furman University to Sirrine Stadium. For some fans this came as a surprise. For others, it was less surprising but nonetheless impactful.
Team president, Marco Carrizales called the move a “next step” as the club looks to “evolve” moving forward. Carrizales was complimentary of the team’s time at Furman, his collegiate home, but was quick to point out the positives of the team’s new location.
A change of this magnitude is bound to draw mixed reactions. There are certainly some positives and negatives that come along with it. Let’s try to break down the good an bad from this move.
The positives of this move are almost too obvious to state. Many of the reasons this move makes sense are the same reasons many fans, myself included, dreamed of this location as the home of Greenville soccer for awhile.
First and foremost, it is downtown. If you have been around Greenville for more than five minutes, you know the importance of the downtown scene. This centralization of the city’s heartbeat has only increased in the past several years as people have begun to move downtown in droves. With all the dining and entertainment options, on top of the amount of jobs located downtown, this is no surprise.
Playing downtown makes games more accessible to a larger number of people and has the potential to draw a new audience who may not have been willing to make the drive up to Furman.
Another benefit of the new home for Greenville FC is access to a broader array of restaurants and breweries. Being downtown opens a world of opportunity for new partnerships for both the team and the Mill Town Operatives supporters group.
For everything that is great about being at Sirrine, there are a number of drawbacks. These things are the reason that Greenville FC, and subsequently Greenville Triumph SC , have avoided the venue up to this point. It would not be fair to look at this move without at least acknowledging the issue that exist or are sure to arise by playing at Sirrine.
First, let’s talk about the known issues with the stadium. One major issue is the very limited parking at the stadium. I think it is safe to assume that the team was aware of this issue and has hopefully made arrangements with some of the local businesses to utilize their parking for gamedays. But the parking issue stretches a bit further as it will likely impact the tailgating options for the Mill Town Operatives.
It has also been pointed out by numerous people on numerous occasions that the field is small by general soccer standards. The proximity of the stands to the field prevent there from being much wiggle room in that respect. But it should be pointed out that plenty of teams play on smaller fields at every level of soccer with regularity so this is probably a bigger deal for the players than the fans. The field is also not going to be kept up to the level that Furman’s field was. That is simply the side effect of it being under the care of the school system rather than a private university.
What about some of the potential drawbacks? While we do not know for sure what the team has been working on behind the scenes, here are some issues that have been mentioned in the past as potential hang ups with the stadium:
- Beer Sales – Because the stadium is owned by Greenville County Schools, beer sales are a major hurdle. I have been told that beer sales are not an impossibility but will require quite a few things to get done in order to become a reality. If Greenville FC manages to get over the hurdles, this will be a huge victory for the team and fans.
- Smoke Grenades – Last year at Furman, smoke was hit or miss from week to week. Towards the end of the season it seemed to become more of a “ask forgiveness. not permission” issue. Being within city limits probably puts more eyeballs and scrutiny on this practice. Again, this may not be an impossibility, but is definitely a question that needs to be addressed.
- Football/Lacrosse lines – Since Greenville FC plays in the summer, this may not be an issue. I am unsure if any of Greenville High’s teams use the field for summer practices, but if they do, there is a chance that we could see non-soccer markings on the field during the season.
One more potential drawback is the sheer size of Sirrine. Wikipedia lists the capacity as 15,000. In contrast, Eugene Stone has a capacity of 3,000. With the team averaging about 1,700 fans per game last season, it could make the crowds feel smaller than they actually are.
The change of venue is definitely big news for Greenville FC’s sophomore season. If they can leverage the obvious benefits of this move and mitigate the drawbacks as much as possible, this could be net positive for the team as a whole. Only time will tell how this move will truly affect the team and the fanbase.