Charleston a Gem for USL

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Charleston a Gem for USL

By Jeff Kassouf

Nestled away just minutes from downtown Charleston, South Carolina lies the quiet, upscale community of Daniel Island. This quaint little island is surprisingly home to two professional sporting venues. Alongside the Family Circle Tennis Center is Blackbaud Stadium, home to the United Soccer League’s First Division team, the Charleston Battery.

Blackbuad Stadium seats 5,100 spectators, and boasts one of the nicest English-style soccer pubs in the country, The Three Lions Pub. Inside the pub is thousands of dollars worth of soccer memorabilia. Autographed balls and jerseys line the walls, and range from recent Major League Soccer teams to English World Cup teams from decades ago.

The stadium itself, voted “Best of US Soccer” in 2002, is beautifully lined by palm trees, and is one of the most intimate experiences in the United Soccer Leagues. Every seat in the house is right on top of the action. The first row of seats is literally just feet from the touchline and the player’s benches.

Adding environment to this beautiful stadium is the official supporter’s group of the Charleston Battery, The Regiment. This group of about 65 supporters brings life to the gold and black jewel that is Blackbaud Stadium, and acts as a bridge between the players and fans.

The Regiment has its own hospitality chair person who sends out care packages to every Battery player on the final roster at the beginning of the season. This includes a list of the best places to eat and where to go, and contacts to some of the supporters to help the players get accustomed to the Charleston area.

“We welcome the new players into town because they don’t really know everyone,” said Dieu Nguyen, the former President of The Regiment.

At the end of every season, the group hosts a barbeque that is by invite only for Regiment members and the team. At this function, the Battery players and staff not only interact with their most die-hard fans, but also participate in games with children.

Anthony Graves, the current President of The Regiment, said that such interaction is unique at any level. At times, it is even more welcoming than the higher levels such as MLS, and makes the players feel more at home.

“Former MLS players come in and feel welcome by the team,” said Graves. “Sometimes they weren’t cared for in other places.”
Graves described The Regiment as “strictly a supporters’ group.” He said that they do their best not to be obnoxious during the game, but certainly get all over the opposing teams’ players.

For as little as thirty dollars, Battery fans can become part of The Regiment. This includes group gear, and special access to events such as the end-of-year barbeque.

Members of The Regiment and other Battery fans also travel to road games for the Southern Derbies against Carolina and Atlanta. While both the RailHawks and the Silverbacks play in their own soccer specific stadiums (WakeMed Soccer Park and RE/MAX Greater Atlanta Stadium, respectively), Battery fans are also appreciative of having such a beautiful stadium of their own.

Before the opening of Blackbaud Stadium as the first privately funded soccer specific stadium in 1999, the Battery played at a high school football stadium with a track, something that Graves said took away from the atmosphere.

With a beautiful stadium and supporters group for the USL-1 side firmly in place, there is only one thing that Battery fans expect from their team, who hasn’t one the league title since 2003.

“Wins, wins, wins, wins, wins, and, um, wins,” remarked Graves.

Blackbaud Stadium – The intimate environment

Blackbaud Stadium

Three Lions Pub

Three Lions Pub


Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: jeffkassouf@yahoo.com

 

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