A Special Bond
The John Walker Soccer Complex has become the place to be on Friday nights.
August 28, 2011
by Britton Drown
Long before Friday's soccer match against Ole Miss officially kicked off, the central parking lot of the John Walker Soccer Complex was already bustling with energy.
Never mind that it was still over 100-degrees as the hot Lubbock afternoon slowly burned to evening over the Texas Tech campus.
"I don't care at all," Kenny Sanchez joked.
And truthfully, he didn't have a choice. At least not at the moment.
He was occupied with the duties of overseeing one of three monstrous smokers that lined the front of the parking lot. T-Bone steaks, bratwursts and of course hot dogs were all under his watchful eye as well over 100 people congregated around this impressive tailgate.
Sanchez, who's daughters both play for the FC-Lubbock '94 club soccer team, helped organize this tailgate which filled the first row of the parking lot with smokers, tents and an atmosphere that has helped build a truly unique college soccer environment each Friday night at Texas Tech.
It's part of a growing relationship between the Texas Tech soccer program and the local club soccer teams, including FC-Lubbock, The Lubbock Soccer Association, the Lonestar Soccer Club and Lubbock Arsenal-FC.
"We just all got together and support the Red Raider soccer team by coming out here and having a tailgate," Sanchez said.
It's a tradition that is now in its third season, as Sanchez and members of the local youth soccer programs have gathered in the parking lot hours before games, all to celebrate the Texas Tech soccer program.
In return, head coach Tom Stone and the Red Raiders have opened up their facilities for teams such as FC-Lubbock to train.
"It's kind of a thank you," Sanchez said of the tailgate. "It [also] builds a camaraderie with the families. We get to know each other--and it helps fill the stands."
It certainly has. In two Friday night games this season, the Red Raiders have posted official attendance numbers of 1,215 and 1,275.
The combined attendance in the opening weekend of the season of 2,467 marked the second-highest weekend attendance in program history--the previous high came in 2010.
"All the local clubs have just been incredible supporters of our program," Stone said. "They have turned this place into one of the toughest places to play."
Last season, Texas Tech went 7-2 inside the friendly confines of the John Walker Soccer Complex. It could be said that the large attendance numbers were a factor in that impressive record. Texas Tech ranked No. 12 in the country and 2nd in the Big 12 in average attendance.
Now, the Red Raiders are looking to string together another impressive season inside their unique home.
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