Field has superb turf but lacks history

By Matthew George

This is the first installment of a special feature rating the stadiums, arenas and athletic facilities that house varsity sporting events for UK from a fan’s perspective. Ratings are based on a scale of one to five tickets, with five being the best. The overall rating is not an average, and all opinions are strictly those of Matthew George. The Stadium Rater will run periodically throughout the school year. Overall (not an average)

The UK Soccer Complex, which opened in late 1996, houses the playing field, practice field and locker rooms for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams. Men’s head coach Ian Collins and women’s head coach Warren Lipka were both instrumental in the planning of the new complex, as the Cats had outgrown their old facility, known as The Cage. The complex’s biggest strength is its playing surface, though its lack of history drags it down.


Having only been used since the 1996 season, the UK Soccer Complex is not yet rich in history.  But since its opening, the Complex has already hosted the men’s Mid-American Conference Tournament in 1998 and the women’s Southeastern Conference Tournament in 1996. The men hosted the Complex’s first NCAA Tournament game in 2003, when the Cats defeated Cincinnati in penalty kicks. But with the men’s and women’s programs only beginning in 1991 and 1992 respectively, there just hasn’t been enough time for the UK Soccer Complex to play host to a fair share of history.


The stadium features grandstand bleacher seating for more than 1,500 fans on the sideline. A new student section dubbed “The Big Blue Wall,” which is capable of housing a few hundred of UK’s rowdiest students, was added to the field’s north end zone prior to the 2004 season. And while those figures don’t seem eye-popping, history has shown that game-day capacity is not limited to the number of bleacher seats. A school-record 3,327 fans were present to witness the men’s 1-0 season-opening win over Louisville in 2005. The stands look petite in comparison to those of some of the nation’s top programs — Indiana’s Bill Armstrong Stadium houses more than 6,500 fans — but there has yet to be a fan turned away at the gate as the result of a sellout.

Playing surface

Definitely the crowning achievement of the UK Soccer Complex, the field is a lighted international-regulation-sized playing field. It’s a modified sand-based field of Bermuda grass that features an irrigation system to both water the field and offer drainage for rainwater, which keeps the field in optimum playing condition no matter what the weather. Both teams conduct all their practices on the adjacent practice field to preserve the game-day turf, and it shows. The turf is flawless, a lush green that is springy and soft, and any athlete would be privileged to dig his or her cleats into it.


In the world of college sports, students make the atmosphere. Coaches know that and players know that. And as the UK faithful have begun to embrace soccer on campus, both soccer teams have begun to embrace the faithful back. T-shirts and other giveaways are a staple at any UK soccer game, men’s or women’s, and halftime shows have featured dance-team performances, burrito-eating contests and brief amateur soccer matches. The Complex works to balance entertaining its college fan base while supporting a family-friendly environment. Fair-weathered games feature an inflatable play area and a miniature soccer field for kids. The concession-stand menu offers your standard stadium noshes of popcorn, sodas and candy, but it seems uninspired and lacks originality.

Home-field advantage

“The Big Blue Wall” offers a modestly sized yet daunting student section for the UK men’s and women’s soccer squads. The stands, located in the north end zone, can house a few hundred students who at times haunt the opposing team’s goalie for the half when he or she is on the student section’s side. Fans have gone so far as to hand out copies of one opposing goalie’s profile to provide inspiration for heckling.

The Cats have definitely reaped the benefits of playing within the friendly confines of the UK Soccer Complex. Since 1992, the women have recorded an all-time record of 167-120-25 for a .575 winning percentage. Playing in the Complex, the women are 60-37-9 with a .619 winning percentage. The men’s all-time record since their first season in 1991 is 1777-119-31 (.589). In the Complex, they are 101-38-18 (.701).

Game-day availability

Located in the midst of the Kirwan and Blanding residence hall complexes, the previous soccer field, known as The Cage, offered students an unprecedented convenience when it came to attending games. And while the UK Soccer Complex’s location on Wildcat Way — off of College Way across from Commonwealth Stadium — is not as close to fans as The Cage was, it offers distinct advantages over its predecessor.

The Complex has its own parking lot and room for an international-regulation-sized practice field. And even in instances when attendance has exceeded 3,000, game-day traffic did not cause any headaches. As with the other Olympic sports on campus, tickets are free for students with a valid student ID and affordable for everyone else. Non-student ticket rates are $2 for children and $5 for adults.