a_soccer_ball.pngAT&T Park officials are hoping an international soccer match scheduled for this weekend will prove that the home of the Giants is also a world-class soccer venue.

England’s Manchester City will take on Mexico’s Club America on Saturday evening during a friendly match leading up to the Football Association Cup, an English premiere league tournament.

The match will be only the seventh soccer game ever hosted at AT&T Park–and one of the few held during baseball season–but Jorge Costa, senior vice president of ballpark operations, said he was excited about the challenge of creating a temporary soccer pitch.

“I would like to establish this as a venue for soccer,” he said. “I want to show we can do this whether it’s in season or not.”

Ballpark crews had to remove the portable baseball mound and clear away an inch of dirt before laying about 9,000 square feet of sod, Costa said.

The process took about a day and will need to be reversed as soon as the match ends on Saturday so the field is Giants-ready for Monday’s game against the L.A. Dodgers.

“We had to remove the dirt to make it even so the ball rolls flat and has even bounces,” Costa said. “We bought the sod especially thick and have spent a lot of time on hands and knees” lining it up.

The goals had not been erected yet this morning but will run parallel to the third base line so most of the audience will have a better view of the game, Giants spokesman Jens Weiden said.

The franchise has been working closely with the British consulate to promote the game, and unique requests–including whether fans can bring drums and vuvuzelas–have poured in all week, he said.

“We’re going to have a separate line for fans with drums,” Weiden said. “We’re hoping to get a new type of fan in to AT&T–maybe they’ll come back for a Giants game next week.”

AT&T hasn’t hosted a soccer game since 2006, but the match–during which the U.S. Men’s team beat Japan 3-2 — was a sold-out affair, Costa said. Three of the six soccer matches played at AT&T have sold out, thanks largely to strong walk-up crowds, he added.

A spokesman for Rezin Marketing, which is promoting the match, said AT&T Park was especially appealing because it is a World Series championship venue.

“They also understand soccer,” said Peter Moran of Rezin, which has previously promoted soccer matches in San Diego and Phoenix. “A lot of people in the U.S. don’t understand soccer, but they understand it from both the marketing and operations side.”
Saturday’s game will begin at 5 p.m.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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