Don't call Los Angeles Football Club enthusiasts fans. That's an insult.
“A fan is a person who comes, watches the game, buys his food and drink, and leaves,” said Richard Escutia, the head of District 9 Ultras, one of the LAFC’s many supporters groups.
A supporter, meanwhile, “does not watch the game. We are part of the game.”
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony today for the $350 million Banc of California stadium in Exposition Park, men decked out in the team’s black and gold gear fist-pounded each other. They posed for photos in front of the section of the stadium built specifically with their requests in mind.
Supporters also never sit down. Really.
So that's why a special section allows seats to be locked in a closed, folded position during LA Football Club games. Instead, each row has chest-high rails for supporters to lean into while screaming at the top of their lungs. (Yes, the seats can come down during concerts or other events.)
And that roof above these supporters was designed to make them as loud as possible.
The material is “literally a drum,” said Jonathan Emmett, an architect with Gensler who was the stadium’s lead designer. It will amplify the singing, screaming and cheering.
Wait, wait, there's more. He also put in a few rows of metal bleachers that “will make an incredible amount of noise” when supporters jump up and down on them.
So this is what Escutia meant when he said he and other "supporters" will become part of the game:
“The stadium will rock at the sound of our voices, and the opposition will tremble at the sound of our percussion and drums,” he said.
Beyond the sound, there are optics.
Emmett said the team's hardcore supporters asked him to make their section “as steep as you can possible make it.” Why? They wanted to look more intimidating to the other team's players on the field.
The architect obliged. At 34 degrees, the section is the steepest of any Major League Soccer stadium. Supporters also have their own bar — one of the stadium’s largest — with a view of they field so they never have to miss a minute. And it's affordable: tickets in the supporters section start at $20.
Escutia and other supporters were invited by the team owners to meet with the stadium’s architects at Gensler in the early design stages, back in 2014. Those owners include Magic Johnson, former U.S. Olympic soccer star Mia Hamm-Garciaparra and her husband, former Dodger Nomar Garciaparra.
“From very early on in the process (supporters) were brought to to the table to really help us conceive of not only what the physical attribute of the stadium would be but also what the game day experience would be at the stadium,” said Emmett.
Why, you might ask, did a non-existent team have fans at that point? To Escutia, it’s a no-brainer:
“When my wife was pregnant I did not know my boy, but I already loved him. That’s how I see LAFC. Long before we had a team, we already loved this cause.”
LA Football Club supporters call themselves “The 3252” after the number of seats in their section. Within that 3252, there are several supporters groups, all representing different identities or areas of greater Los Angeles: the District 9 Ultras, Black Army 1850, Cuervos, Expo Originals and LAFC Lucky Boys.
The Supporters Section is just 15 percent of the 22,000 capacity stadium. But Josef Zacher, head of The 3252, said it’s their job to be the kindling that catches the crowd on fire.
“Not only our side is going to be making the noise, but you’re going to see everyone joining in. You’re going to see people standing up because they feel the intensity. It’s gonna spread beyond us. And if we can get that to happen, this is going to be a formidable place to play.”
The first game is April 29 against the Seattle Sounders, and it's already sold out.