Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, home of the Puerto Rico Islanders of the NASL, is going under major renovations in a multi-phase plan. The stadium built in 1974 currently seats 12,000 but was in need of a facelift. The stadium, located in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, was built for the Vaqueros de Bayamón baseball team who used the venue up until the team folded in 2003. The city, who owns the stadium, was looking for a tenant. At the same time the Islanders were forming and the match seemed perfect. The stadium has served its purpose and seen the Islanders play many an important game there over the last 8 years.
However, Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium was a baseball park and never quite cut the grade for either fans or players. The main seating was principally in one end and corner of the stadium. The other issue was the surface. The field was never built with proper drainage. Puerto Rico gets an average of 50″ of rain per year and the poorly drained surface would quickly pool up during rainy matches leaving puddles scattered across the pitch.
Click read more and see photos of construction courtesy of David Diaz and www.hiapr.org.
The new construction was proposed by the mayor of Bayamón, Ramón Luis Rivera, Jr., who has committed to a rehab of the stadium that will cost nearly $7 million. The planed renovation will put additional seating of at least 8,000 around most areas of the field and increase the capacity up to a possible 24,000 seats according to the mayor. Rivera has been quoted as saying he would like to see MLS in Puerto Rico someday and hopes to help draw the Pan American Games to the Island in 2019. “The idea is to take it to another level,” said Rivera. “To take it to that point where we could rise to be part of MLS.”
The mayor may have set lofty goals with MLS, but in the immediate future it will be the Islanders and their fans who benefit the most from the stadium upgrade. However, with a new playing surface and drainage system any NASL player who makes the trip to Puerto Rico for a game will be appreciative and perhaps even relieved not to be sloshing through the waterlogged surface as has been the case in the past.
According to Rivera the renovations will take place in two stages.The first phase started a month ago with several smaller buildings being demolished. The stadium field has now been cut away to install the drainage system. The plan is to increase the length of the field but the width will remain at its current dimensions. However, the surface will be artificial to take the wear and tear of the Islands’ heavy rainfalls.
The first phase of the renovation will included the new drainage system and surface. The second phase will include the new stadium seating and adjacent buildings. It’s still not clear when that second phase will kick in which could be delayed until the end of the team’s season. More likely it will take place simultaneously with construction taking place away from the existing stadium seating and field. The goal is for the entire stadium renovation to be completed by the beginning of the 2013 season. The first phase, the drainage system and new turf, will most likely will be ready for the Islanders by early May, meaning only the preseason games and handful of regular season games will have to be relocated. The Islanders schedule has the team playing 3 home games in April and 2 in mid May.
Ignacio Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Islanders, stated the team is currently exploring other venues for the first 3 or 4 home games as a contingency plan. He explained the preseason games and all training will take place at the Bayamón Soccer Complex, about 3 miles from stadium. The Islanders played at the Bayamón Soccer Complex several years ago after some hurricane damage was incurred at Juan Ramón Loubriel. Rodriguez said the Bayamón soccer complex has seating for approximately 1000 fans.
“It’s pretty exciting.” said Rodriguez. “There are working around the clock to get the field ready. We are going to have a stadium that will be the gem of the Caribbean. This will be huge for the Islanders and their supporters.”