MUSC Health Stadium, opened as Blackbaud Stadium in 1999, is an important landmark of American Soccer history. It is the first privately funded Soccer Specific Stadium in the US, and has been home to many memories in Charleston Battery history.
In the 20 years since its opening, the Battery have won three of their four titles, hosting them all, as well as helping the Battery on their way to the US Open Cup final in 2008, regularly the site of many an upset.
The stadium has played host to global superstars through the Carolina Challenge Cup, while also home to players that have made their mark on the game in the US and abroad, such as Terry Phelan, John Wilson, Paul Conway, Mark Watson, Osvaldo Alonso, and more.
Ahead of what is likely the final game to be played at the stadium on October 19th, 2019, against the Bethlehem Steel, the time has come to reminisce on what has been perhaps the most wonderful journey in American Soccer.
The stadium was opened in 1999, as the Battery moved from Stoney Field to a state of the art facility. and history was on the way. It hosted the first of its USL Championship Finals in 2003, as the Battery prevailed over the Minnesota Thunder by a score of 3-0, thanks to goals from Ted Chronopoulous, Paul Conway and Steve Klein. The Battery, then led by Manager Chris Ramsey, had former player and current manager Mike Anhaeuser as his assistant beside him on the bench. It was the Battery’s second league title and set them up for a history of success at the stadium, having not lost a final that they hosted.
In 2008, with Anhaeuser at the helm, the Battery made the US Open Cup final, becoming only the second non-MLS team to do so behind the Rochester Rhinos, who won the competition in 1999.
The Battery hosted four of their six matches in the tournament that year, and gained a reputation of always being ready to provide the upset, beating both the MLS Champion Houston Dynamo (Widely regarded as the game where the world took notice of Osvaldo Alonso) and former USL rivals Seattle Sounders on penalties. It wasn’t to be in the Final, losing 2-1 to DC United, but the role the home field advantage played in pivotal moments when it mattered was a major factor in getting so far.
And then, in 2010, the Battery were at the pinnacle again. The Battery were USL-2 Regular Season champions, and beat rivals Richmond Kickers in the Final. That year, the Battery had a spine that would set them up for years to come, featuring Colin Falvey, Nicki Paterson, Zach Prince, and on-loan striker Lamar Neagle, who finished the year as top scorer.
Falvey would be sent off in the 30th minute, but Lamar Neagle and Ian Fuller would provide the goals as the Black and Yellow prevailed over Richmond for their third ever league title, their second at the then Blackbaud Stadium.
It was around this time that the stadium was in its heyday. The 2010 World Cup had helped the sport, and the culture, really take off in America. As such, you saw an uptick in general attendance, and the atmosphere was raucous, It was intimidating for opposition to visit Charleston, knowing that if the Battery were in a tough spot, there were always the fans there to will the ball into the back of the net.
The Battery won their fourth title against another rival, the Wilmington Hammerheads, in 2012. Mike Azira would provide the all important goal as the Battery were again crowned Champions, in a team that many regard as the best to ever play for the Battery.
With future MLS stars at virtually every position, a mixture of youth and experience, and a team spirit that transcended the pitch, it’s no surprise that the team were crowned champions at seasons end.
But it’s not only those pivotal moments in Battery history that have made the stadium so iconic. It’s the memories made because of the Battery, the picturesque Charleston skyline setting its sun as matches kicked off, the fire in the belly you felt walking into the stadium on matchday, that fans will miss.
As the Battery finish the 2019 season, it’s a goodbye to history on and off the pitch for the Black and Yellow. It’s hard to quantify what it means to be leaving this beautiful home, but we couldn’t think of such a better place to make history.
TOP IMAGE: PAUL CONWAY SHOWS HIS APPRECIATION FOR FANS AFTER THE 2003 USL A-LEAGUE VICTORY. MIKE BUYTAS PHOTO. SLIDESHOW PHOTOS COURTESY MIKE BUYTAS AND NICKI ACE