This Day In Sports: Albertsons Stadium turns a natural green

July 18, 2015: The turf at Albertsons Stadium turns temporarily green for the first Basque Soccer Friendly, an international exhibition between Spain’s Athletic Bilbao and Mexico’s Club Tijuana. A huge platform was laid over Boise State’s iconic blue turf, and on top of that went natural turf sod, transforming the field into a soccer pitch. A crowd of 21,948 took in the surreal scene and watched Bilbao blank Tijuana 2-0. It was the largest crowd to watch a soccer match in the state of Idaho. By many many thousands.

The Basque Soccer Friendly was a success. The momentum built as the match neared, and there were big lines at ticket windows an hour before kickoff. A mid-July evening in Boise can be intense with the sun beating down, but the temperature at kickoff Saturday night was 83 degrees, a benefit to the crowd and the natural turf alike. The turf was as green as could be hoped for thanks to a week of scrupulous care; very few seams were visible from the original rolls of sod. It held up superbly over the 92 minutes of play, helped by an extra bath from firehoses at halftime.

It was a great scene (beer lines notwithstanding), a celebration of all things Basque, and a good chunk of the crowd got into it with apparel. There were even some old “Dave Bieter For Mayor” T-shirts (Boise’s mayor at the time is a member of one of the city’s most prominent Basque families). The hope is that the Basque Soccer Friendly can happen again. There were plans in the works for one in 2021, but it was scrapped by COVID. Best case scenario would be to make the Basque Soccer Friendly an official part of Jaialdi, one of the biggest Basque festivals in the world held in Boise every five years. The next Jaialdi is set for 2025.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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