Switchbacks FC took steps forward on two different sides of Colorado Springs on Friday.
Players, in groups of four or fewer, and the coaching staff returned to Weidner Field, on the city’s east side, for the first time since the United Soccer League relaxed its training moratorium. Coach Alan Koch said the groups could have gathered as early as Monday, but the club took a few extra days to make sure everything was in place.
“There’s a lot of very strict medical guidelines that we have to observe,” Koch said.
Players had their temperatures taken and wore masks until they were actually on the field. There, the work was pretty light, but it was obvious that to the coach that the benefits went beyond the physical.
“You could see they really enjoyed themselves,” Koch said.
The USL extended its training moratorium for full-side team activities later Friday in a release that also mentioned possible future outcomes.
“While it is the league’s hope that a decision on resumption of play can be made in the coming weeks, all options remain on the table for both leagues,” the release reads. “These include regionalized competition as well as other alternative structures in the event that a traditional league format is no longer possible.”
Downtown, members of the front office watched as the final beam was placed during a "topping off" ceremony the club’s new stadium, which is expected to open for the 2021 season. The bright blue hunk of steel was signed by fans and members of the team Thursday and Friday before being hoisted three or four stories off the ground to its resting spot on the west side of the stadium site, which sits just southeast of the intersection of Cimarron and Sierra Madre streets. Cars parked along Sierra Madre to watch. Honking horns replaced clapping as most stayed in their vehicles as a form of social distancing and shelter from an afternoon shower.
“I don’t care how hard it rains, it’s still a beautiful day in Colorado Springs,” mayor John Suthers told the crowd.
Representatives from GE Johnson and Weidner Apartments Homes also addressed the crowd. Robert Carr, on behalf of Weidner Apartment Homes, said the company is committed to not only the stadium but the surrounding area, mentioning the possibility of 1,000 apartments and potential for restaurants and retail spaces.
“Six years ago, when we brought the franchise to Colorado Springs, this was kind of on the docket to get built,” Ed Ragain said, standing in front of the structure that will house press boxes, club levels and a restaurant. “So over the last six years, we’ve been dreaming, planning, organizing.”
As exciting as days like Friday and December’s groundbreaking are to Ragain and family, he said he was most excited about the potential success the building would host.
“Winning. We all want to win. I think the fans want to see talented players (who) want to win,” Ragain said. “I think we want to bring that to Colorado Springs.”
The club took a step towards that goal in two different parts of the city Friday.