Spring has sprung and it’s time to kick off the professional soccer season. The Carolina RailHawks are part of the North American Soccer League that call WakeMed Soccer Park home. Despite being in Cary, the RailHawks draw a crowd from all over the Triangle. The facilities are bar-none with their turf, stands and overall stadium attractions. This spring marks the RailHawks’ 10th season and huge things are in store for this year.
I was fortunate to be able to sit and chat with both Curt Johnson, President and General Manager of the Carolina RailHawks, and Pete Sciandra, Vice President of the Carolina RailHawks. The enthusiasm and anticipation was palpable as they told me all about the new game day festivities fans will experience this season. Under the new club ownership of Steve Malik, there is a different perspective, renewed passion and extensive resources put in full force to make this season unlike any other. As Curt says, “Having a new owner who is so dialed in to the needs of this market is crucial. We now have the resources to grow further and be the best we can be. It’s awesome to be able to offer our fans a true game day experience and for us to reach our full potential of showcasing what professional soccer is all about here in the Triangle.”
The games are perfect for fans of every age, but the RailHawks staff does an incredible job at making sure each demographic has something to keep their interest. Mauricio Villarreal, Communications Manager of the Carolina RailHawks, is unbelievably calm as he spouts out just a few of the many entertainment events they put on last year including The Pig Pickin’, Taste of the Triangle, Wine Fest and Soktoberfest. These will all be making an appearance this year, too. These events typically precede the soccer match, so there is more than enough time to enjoy the food and libations prior to cheering on the RailHawks. Along with these events, food trucks can be found there on game day, too. Mauricio was gracious enough to give us a sneak peek at some of the food trucks that will be there at the season opener on April 2nd when the gates open at 1:30pm. Come get your taste buds fired up with food from Bandido’s Tacotopia, Baton Rouge Cuisine, OMG Chicken, Rare Earth Farm Food Truck, STUFT, Backyard Bistro and Not Just Icing.
By now you can see there are so many food options available to Carolina RailHawks supporters, no matter which home match they attend. Pete also added, “We’re not just a place to get hot dogs and hamburgers. Sure, we have those as options, but the depth of our food options as a whole are vast and accommodating of so many taste preferences. With our partnerships for concessions and the food trucks, there’s no lack of variety.”
Along with the veteran favorites, the RailHawks are launching several new attractions this season. The Duck Donuts Family Zone will feature inflatables, face painting, a soccer ball kicking contest and hair spray for the kids at every match. Don’t worry, parents, there are also drink specials for you to partake in while the kids have their fun. Duck Donuts will also be offering donut bites for the kiddos who participate in the soccer ball kick contest. The Far Post Beer Garden will be a new area in the stadium aimed at Millenials with a modern sports lounge feel. Lonerider Brewing has developed a special concoction in honor of the RailHawks’ veteran player, aptly named Kupono Captain’s Ale, that is sold in cans in this section and throughout the park.
There will also be a RailHawks Fan Bus option this year. You heard that right. A bus will pick you up from a participating Cary or Raleigh location, drive you to the match, you drink, eat and cheer for the RailHawks and then the bus drives you back to the original pickup spot. This is a game-changer for all the hardcore supporters who want to safely partake in all the match day festivities.
Nic Platter, Director of Team Operations, echoes the sentiments of his comrades, with a few other reasons why he’s psyched for this integral season. Nic says, “It’s exciting not only because it’s our 10th year, but the product on the field is going to surprise and impress our supporters. The depth of our roster yields a solid team who, as individuals, are all experienced players. This combined with a new owner and broader resources will evolve the game day experience not only for us as a team and staff, but also for the fans.”
As if things couldn’t get any fresher, with the 10th anniversary comes new kits (I’m used to saying jerseys, but thank you, Nic, for clarifying!) for the team. They feature their signature colors in a new way, which is a reason in and of itself to come out to the match! Mark your calendars, grab your RailHawks kit and come on down for a true game day experience at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday, April 2nd. Gates open at 1:30pm, so be sure to come in to partake in all of the food, fun and festivities prior to the match at 3pm.
Tessa Nguyen is a chef and registered dietitian working in the Triangle area. She is an alumna of Johnson & Wales University and Meredith College. When Tessa isn’t traveling and discovering new food spots, she teaches culinary nutrition cooking classes at Duke and works as a consultant in the health and wellness industry. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter @