Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Correspondent
In the 21st Century, it would be difficult to find a professional sports team that isn’t involved in some sort of community or philanthropic effort that goes beyond the league competition. Whether it’s a player reading at a local library or major contribution from the team’s head office, pro sports organizations understand that giving back is an integral part of the business. In northeast San Antonio, however, Toyota Field and the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions FC exist for the sole purpose of philanthropy.
Directly across from Toyota Field is the world renowned Morgan’s Wonderland amusement park which was designed for ADA accessibility. The park was funded and developed by Gordon Hartman, father of Morgan, who was the inspiration behind the park. Scorpions FC was established not only to satisfy the needs of the professional soccer deprived San Antonio area, but as a source of funding for Morgan’s Wonderland as all profits from the football club are dedicated to the amusement park and cause.
The story behind Morgan’s Wonderland, Toyota Field, and the San Antonio Scorpions FC is heartwarming and wonderful. And while the cause for Scorpions soccer is much greater than your average sports club, the quality of the facility and overall atmosphere is impressive as well. The plans for the Scorpions FC are lofty and look beyond play in the NASL. Depending on fan support, it’s not unreasonable for San Antonio to successfully pitch for a MLS franchise in the near future.
Food & Beverage 5
Toyota Field provides a good amount of variety and quality concession items around the field.
The following is a break-down of major concession stands and locations:
- Attacker Snacks - Lower east concourse below section 127
- Beckham's Place - Located: Lower east concourse below section 123
- Corner Kick - Located: North concourse behind section 117
- Striker Snacks - Located: North concourse behind section 113
- Midfield Munchies - Located: West concourse behind section 107
- Pele's Place - Located: West concourse behind section 103
Though all of the above stands are operated under different names, the concession menus are generally the same. The major stands include the following staple items: nachos ($3.50), hot dogs ($4), and popcorn ($3). Sweet items include cookies ($3), cotton candy ($3), brownies ($3), assorted candy ($2.50), and ice cream $3). The salty items are peanuts ($3.50), chips ($2), pretzels ($3.50), and the sweet cream cheese pretzel ($4).
If the major stands don't please your appetite, you will also find several specialty carts around the venue whether in the Endzone Fan Fiesta area (which is open and accessible throughout the game) or within the concourses. Some of the tastiest carts include Mexican-inspired favorites like Agua de Fresha (fruit water), fruit cups (with Mexican seasoning), and ice cream and fruit bars from Michoa-Cana. There are many more carts with items ranging from barbecue, to Mexican cuisine, kettle corn, sno-cones, and funnel cakes.
Drink options are headlined by Pepsi products which include Dr. Pepper and the Texas favorite Big Red for $3.50). Gatorade is available for $3.50 and bottled AquaFina water for $3. Toyota Field has alcohol for sale and you can grab a 16oz draft beer for $6.50 and a Wine-a-rita for $10. Additional alcoholic beverage options are available at the Miller Light Beer Garden and Stinger's Bar. Per Toyota Field regulations, fans are allowed to bring in "one empty, clear-plastic bottle of 32 ounces or less" which must not contain alcohol.
Toyota Field has all the key components you'd expect from a professional sports facility. Though the NASL is considered a second-tier American soccer league to the MLS, Toyota Field provides an upper-echelon atmosphere. Constructed in 2013, the stadium has a cutting-edge design and clean/sharp feel.
The stadium currently has a capacity of 8,000, but depending on fan support, there are two additional phases of construction planned to increase the size and capacity of Toyota Field 12,000 (phase 2) and 18,500 (phase 3). This is pretty obvious once inside the stadium as you can see the bare pillars primed for additional development. Renderings of the expanded facility can be accessed here.
There are several aspects of the stadium which make the atmosphere special. The awning on the west side provides much needed relief from the south Texas heat. The concourse on the west side is also under shade. The Miller Light Beer Garden on the south end of the field provides a casual place for fans to grab a seat around a table and enjoy couple of cold ones. The Sky Suite/Stinger's Bar is located above the apparel shop on the southwest corner and offers a bird's eye view of the field, social networking opportunities, and a full-service bar. The northwest corner of the seating area is dedicated to a passionate fan club known as the 'The Garrison." The large crystal clear HD video board on the north side is a great aid to the overall experience.
Though the overall San Antonio area is a major travel destination, the area immediately around Toyota Field is fairly sparse. Except for Morgan's Wonderland which is just across the street, there aren't any attractions or restaurants within walking distance. As you head back toward I-35, you'll find a few additional signs of life.
When planning your trip to the northeast San Antonio area, be sure to budget some time for a stop at Smokin Joe's of Texas. Upon first approach, you will feel skeptical as the restaurant is hidden behind a used car lot and taco shack. Overcome your skepticism and head inside for their delicious pork ribs and unique BBQ sauce. Though the taco shack next door will look even less inviting on the outside, Taqueria El Sabrosito Jalisco offers up authentic tacos. Other area options for consideration include Biff Buzby's Burgers and MAAR's Pizza & More.
In the San Antonio area, entertainment options are endless whether it's spending time on the River Walk, taking the kids to Sea World, or making a water park adventure at Schlitterbahn. In the immediate area around Toyota Field, however, the options aren't as great outside of Morgan's Wonderland. There's neat museum not far for the stadium, Texas Transportation Museum, which chronicles the development of transportation in America's greatest state. McAllister Park is a nice area getaway for some R&R.
Your best option for a nearby lodging experience is the immaculate JW Marriot San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. For a stay a little on the lighter side of your wallet, try the Best Western Garden Inn off I-35.
The fan support for the new club in San Antonio has been strong to this point. Expect a crowd around 8,000+. The average attendance for Scorpion FC matches has been the strongest in the NASL since the team first kicked-off in 2012. As mentioned above, if the fan support remains strong, the facility could be expanded and attendance numbers would then increase. A move up to the MLS would undoubtedly change the fan atmosphere in a significant way. For now, we can only dream about the kind of crowds that would fill Toyota Field to see in-state rivals like FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo.
The Garrison fan club located in the northwest corner is the catalyst for fan interaction throughout the stadium. Some of the most common chants include: "S.A....F.C.!", "I believe that we will win", and "You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas" as the great Davey Crockett once said. During corners, fans stand and stomp throughout the stands.
Whether it's the personal connection with the Morgan's Wonderland story or a die-hard soccer fan that finally has a home team to cheer for, Scorpion FC fans are a very passionate bunch. Don't be surprised to find a healthy group of supporters tailgating before the game under Thousand Oaks Drive.
Getting to Toyota Field is a breeze. Located just off I-35, the stadium is a short drive northeast from downtown San Antonio and is just minutes west of the San Antonio International Airport. If you're open to public transportation, Metropolitan Transit of San Antonio has a bus stop just outside Toyota Field via buse umber 502. For additional information, call (210)362-200 or visit http://www.viainfo.net/.
The closest parking options are located on the north side of the field for $10 which includes the tailgating area. Parking around Heroes Stadium (local high school football stadium) on the other side of Thousand Oaks Drive is free and plentiful. Toyota Field provides a great Parking Map. If you're planning to partake in tailgating, be sure to read the their Tailgating Guidelines first.
As you make your way to the stadium, lines will be short and getting inside won't be a hassle. Maneuvering inside the park will be stress-free considering that the entire facility was built with a strong focus on ADA accessibility. With a new stadium comes brand-new facilities. With that said, the restrooms are spacious, modern, clean, and uncluttered.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices for a Scorpions FC match range from $80 at mid-field on the main grandstand to $13 on the north endline. You can also get pretty good seats on the east side between $13 and $30, but beware of the direct sunlight. For late evening games, the sun will only be an issue early in the first half.
The $13 tickets are a very good deal if you don't mind not having a prime view of the field. As the price creeps up into the upper $20s and $30s, the value significantly drops.
Free parking is a plus. You can find some reasonably prices concession items depending on what you're craving. Overall, the ROI is pretty good.
Every live sports experience is highlighted by certain 'extra' features which are unique compared other venues or make the overall experience memorable. For Toyota Field, be sure to consider the following during your stadium experience:
- The Morgan Hartman story and the connection between Morgan's Wonderland and the San Antonio Scorpions FC significantly adds to the overall experience. In addition to cheering on a sports team, you know that your money is going to fund an exceptional cause.
- There are two major merchandise booths throughout the facility. Too often sports facilities don't place enough focus of accessible and conveniently located apparel shops. The Scorpions FC make sure fans have access to Scorpions gear inside the stadium.
- The staff at Toyota Field are beyond friendly. On one of my trips to the stadium, I was engaged in a very informative conversation with an usher named Dave. He offered to explain the history of the park, the Morgan Hartman story, and what the program meant to soccer fans in San Antonio. He even delved into the politics around a massive bat cavern north of the stadium and its connection to the Scorpions club.