The Monday After: A look at MLS Attendance

We haven’t taken a hard look at attendance in a number of weeks, but this past slate of games provides some food for thought.  The “weekend” started with a small Wednesday night crowd in Chicago, where approximately 13k saw a scoreless draw at Toyota Park.  The mid-week games continued on Thursday night with the usual 36k at Qwest.  On Friday night, just over 10k saw Chivas USA shut-out New England at the Home Depot Center.

TFC’s loss to DC United was before the usual 20k plus crowd at BMO Field.  In Harrison, a reported crowd in excess of 19k saw an impressive performance by the Red Bulls on a beautiful afternoon.  As has been the case for many Red Bulls games, attendance appeared to be less than the reported number.  Whether no-shows, poor scalper re-sales or fudged numbers account for the discrepancy, New York is one of many franchises where visible attendance doesn’t necessarily square with reality.

Just under 20k were at the Home Depot Center, a low number given David Beckham’s season debut.  In San Jose, the usual 10k plus were on hand for one of many scoreless draws plaguing the league.  Philly brought 18,500 to the stadium for their upset victory over playoff hopeful Chicago.

Going back to the Red Bulls, this is what we wrote last Fall when comparing the prospects at Red Bull Arena to the low attendance at the newly constructed Prudential Center that houses Devils Hockey.  This is the nightmare scenario for the the Red Bulls.  Build a sparkling new stadium with all the amenities, public transportation accessibility, natural grass and fill it with star players.  Pack in crowds for all 25k seats for a few games and then slowly watch attendance drop off.  Sure, the new revenue streams will be outstanding (recall that Rio Tinto has raised RSL’s revenue 42%).  But will Red Bull be happy with 13k on a Saturday night in August? Many in the New Jersey/New York area have no idea the new stadium exists and thus there is limited excitement about its debut.

Things certainly haven’t reached this stage yet. New York attendance has been solid all year with an average of 18k.  That said, given the new stadium and the star power imported this season, New York fans could have rightfully exepected higher numbers.  With a handful of remaning home dates and a likely playoff match, we will continue to monitor attendance at RBA.

MLS Stadium Update

Six weeks have gone by since our last stadium update, so we thought it time to take a look around MLS to see how some of the stadium projects are moving.  The first bit of news comes out of San Jose, where owner Lew Wolff announced that the team has designated renown 360 architecture as the design firm for both the San Jose Earhuakes and Oakland A’s stadiums.  The stadium is planned near the San Jose Airport and will reportedly requie red two years to construct from the date of the ground breaking to complete.  For more on the funding of the project, check out our earlier post on the stadium effort.

In Portland, the minor league baseball season has come to a close and it is now time for the second phase of the PGE Park renovation to move forward (PGE”s naming rights deal is up, so the name of the stadium may change before the season begins in 2011).   For a great guide to the renovations, click here.  Much of the next phase will involve the removal of baseball fences and polls along with the demolition of certain structural elements.   More than 15k were in attendance for the last Timbers’ match at PGE Park.

In Houston, the Dynamo have announced that they have narrowed their construction manager search to a final four of firms.  COO Chris Canetti also promised that the new stadium will not have football lines on Dynamo gamedays.  The team has previously selected the design firm Populous to serve as project architect.  Total cost of the projected 21k seat stadium is expected to be about $80 million with the Dynamo ownership (primarily AEG and Golden Boy Promotions) funding about $60 million.  The rest of the funds could come from tax credits,  the TIRZ money and from some of the stiumulus money floating around.

Americans in Hartford: A Business Recap of the US v. Czech Republic

Last night the US  Men played the Czech Republic in our backyard before more than 36k.  Because we were at the game last night, we thought we would revisit some of the business aspects of the match in East Hartford.   The total attendance was extremely impressive and the crowd was dominated by fans of the American team.  The crowd was an interesting mix of 20 somethings, youth soccer teams, soccer fans and locals out for the unique experience.

The price point was quite high for tickets, but that didn’t prevents fans from turning out in big numbers.  The parking lots were open 4 hours before game time and filled quickly with tailgaters and early arrivals.  Stadium prices were high; a hamburger, fries and water cost $14.  Beers were selling for $10 for a 10oz draft and parking was $15 a car.

Stadium signage included the usual USSF sponsors, including Castrol, Gatorade, Jose Cuervo and others.  McDonald’s sponsored the pre-game ceremonies with all 22 kids involved with the starting lineups wearing shirts with the Golden Arches.  The new Nike commerical ran at least twice in the stadium in its entirety and the ESPN feed ran throughout the game on the big screen.

Coverage in the local media was fairly extensive, especially after the game.  Most of the major networks ran multiple stories following the game both as part of their news coverage and sports reporting.  The local paper, the Hartford Courant ran photos of the game on both the front page and sports page, but pregame coverage in the paper was lacking.  The local ESPN affiliate broadcast its drive time show from the stadium, and guests included Sunil Gulati and Alexi Lalas.

Overall it was great night for the Greater Hartford area and a great audition for a future games with US Soccer.  The US Women will be in East Hartford in July.

Welcome to the Party Montreal

The big story in MLS is the arrival of Montreal as the league’s 19th franchise. Although the announcement is scheduled for Friday afternoon, multiple sources are reporting the news.   The Impact are scheduled to start play in 2012 and will join Toronto and Vancouver as Canadian franchises.  Long rumored, the move to Montreal immediately provides MLS with a promising franchise and a fervent fan base.  The Impact regularly attract 10k as a second division club suggesting that numbers closer to 20k are possible in MLS.

Montreal has shown an ability to support soccer (remember that big Canada Cup crowd) and is close to securing a 21k soccer specific stadium. A third Canadian team would create a nice rivalry and Saputo is solid potential owner.  However, with Vancouver and Portland right around the corner, there is a question whether the League can handle another franchise so quickly.  The dilution of the talent pool is a big concern.  That said, Montreal would be a great venue for MLS. MLS will now have a huge footprint in Canada and provide a home team for an enormous swath of the Canadian population (big for TV dollars).

The plan is to expand the current 13k stadium to a capacity of about 21k for MLS matches.  Two years should be plenty of time for such an expansion. The Impact already have games scheduled against AC Milan and Fiorentina this Summer at Olympic Stadium and the looming entrance to MLS should provide extra eyeballs on those matches as the Montreal crowds gear up for first division football.

The Montreal move is a no-brainer.  There is no city in the US or Canada more likely to avidly support soccer than Montreal.  The big question is whether another city will join Montreal in 2012 or whether the league will wait for the perfect opportunity.

Soccer Stadium Update: Philly, KC & Vancouver

It’s been a while, so we thought we would take a look at the construction progress at a couple of venues around MLS.  We’ll start with PPL Park, where the sod is down and the stadium is two months away from opening.  The Philadelphia Union provide this wonderful time lapse video of the sod installation.  The video condenses three days of installation into about 1:30 of footage.  Meanwhile, the construction cam continues to document the steady progress in Chester as the finishing touches are being applied to the Union’s new stadium.

In Kansas City, construction crews are moving quickly to build the Wizards’ new home.  The Wizards are also offering up a construction cam that includes a neat zoom feature. Kansas and the local county have offered $230 million in incentives to lure Cerner and the Wizards to Kansas. The stadium is set to open in mid-2011, which promises to be quite a year for soccer specfic stadiums in MLS.

In Vancouver, the Whitecaps announced that they will play the first half of their inaugural season in a temporary stadium while BC place (their permanent home) is completed.  The temporary stadium (which is actually quite nice looking) will seat 27,500 and will cost only 14 million to build.  Given the  low cost of the structure, this seems like an outstanding temporary solution.

Soccer Business Bits: Stadium News in DC, Playoff Broadcasts and Revs Make a Change

unitedSome quick hits from around American soccer, starting with DC United, where efforts are ongoing to find a permanent home for the team.  We have previously written about efforts to build in various parts of Virginia, DC proper or Maryland.  Now, Steve Goff is reporting that DCU is now in talks with another Virginia municipality about a possible stadium.  According to Goff’s article, United is not  yet ready to reveal its new potential partner.

Despite these efforts, we continue to believe that RFK (whether a new stadium or a renovation), is the best option.  The stadium is located directly on the Metro, within the district and reachable by fans both in VA and MD.  We will continue to monitor this situation.

ESPN2 will broadcast two matches from the first round of the MLS playoffs, including a primetime match in Seattle on Thursday, which will certainly show well on televsion.  That theme will continue on Sunday when ESPN2 will show the first leg of the LA playoff Derby, which seems a certainty to sell out.   In the second leg, ESPN2 will put the Columbus/RSL match on in prime time on Thursday and follow with the return leg in Los Angeles on Sunday.   FSC will get both legs of the Revs/Chicago and Telefutura will get the return leg from Houston.

Speaking of the Revs/Chicago, New England made the interesting choice to change their home date against Chicago from Saturday to Sunday.  There are many possible motivations for this move, but from a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense.  The prior late afternoon start on Halloween was guaranteed to limit attendance by precluding both families and adults with kids from attending.  Given the Revs typical difficulty in drawing for playoff games, any effort that can bring fans to the game is worth pursuing.

Soccer Business Bits: ESPN Doubleheader, Denmark Friendly and KC Stadium

tv soccerAmerican soccer fans will be treated to a soccer doubleheader tonight as ESPN2 will televise both the USA/Costa Rica match and the RSL/Red Bulls MLS match.  The lead in offers MLS a great chance for exposure to fans of the US Men who are reluctant to watch MLS matches.  MLS can showcase its product in one of its premier stadiums.  Unfortunately, the teams are near the bottom of the table and not necessarily the best advertisement for the League.  It will be interesting to see what steps ESPN takes to promote the MLS match to its Nats audience. If nothing else, RSL fans can feel pretty certain that there won’t be some other sporting event cutting out the first 15 minutes of the match.

In other news, the USSF  announced a November friendly with Denmark in Denmark.  Television coverage has not been announced.

Finally, it appears that Kansas City is moving closer to its alternative stadium site in Kansas.   For more on the project, check this article at Pitch Invasion.  While we think a 2011 opening is very aggressive and seemingly  unrealistic, we hope that the Wizards can make this a reality.

Soccer Business Bits: Back to B-More, RSL Friendly and More

unitedWe are back on our regular schedule now and thought we would start with a quick look to one of the big business stories of the week.  After getting rebuffed by PG County and desperate to leave RFK, DC United is still considering a permanent move to Baltimore.  According to the story from the Washington Business Journal, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has written to the Maryland Stadium Authority asking them to research a possible stadium project for United.  According to the story, the inquiry was made without consultation with DC United.

This is not the first time United has explored a stadium in Maryland.  Those prior efforts died After an 8-0 vote by the Prince George’s City Council refusing to support funding for a study of a potential stadium in Maryland.  United was then in the unenviable position of having thumbed its nose at the District of Columbia while being left at the alter (or perhaps engagement party) by the State of Maryland.  Now United may have another opportunity to build in the State.

There are many benefits to MLS teams playing mid-season friendlies: exposure, revenue and more.  That said, RSL’s decision to play Chivas in mid-October seems a bit contrary to their efforts to make the playoffs for the second consecutive  season.   With RSL needing points, it seems someone counter productive to exhaust their players with three games left to play.  Nevertheless, with a lenghty break between games, RSL probably needs the matches to stay fit for the run to the playoffs.  However, it is interesting that this match will likely draw about the same amount of fans as a typical MLS match at Rio Tinto.

Finally, the Globe & Mail is reporting that Vancouver will go forward with plans to build a retractable roof on BC Place.  The open air stadium is a requirement of the MLS franchise and moving forward should continue to make the transition for the Whitecaps smooth in 2011.

Soccer Business Bits: MUN2 Interview, MLS Expansion Update and More

us-soccerWith the Mexico/USA qualifier set for Wednesday on MUN2, we posed a couple of questions about the broadcast and the channel to Kevin Dugan of NBC Universal/Mun2 digital media.  Please see his thoughts below:

Footiebusiness: mun2 seems targeted to the Spanish speaking offspring of native Spanish speakers, yet this game will attract many native English speakers outside the typical target audience.

Does mun2 intend to retain these viewers going forward?

Kevin Dugan: Most of the original programs on mun2 are in English. We also program the best Spanish language content form Latin America with English subtitles – not unlike other networks, which regularly import English-language shows from the United Kingdom.

FB: Do you believe your programming is attractive to those of a non-hispanic  background?

KD: Absolutely! Check it out for yourself:

holamun2.com/chicas http://www.holamun2.com/chicas
holamun2.com/xtreme http://www.holamun2.com/xtreme
holamun2.com/hookup http://www.holamun2.com/hookup

FB: In addition to the game, what else will mun2 be doing to keep these viewers?

KD: Being ourselves – uniquely American!

FB: Given that this is the first time many viewers will be exposed to mun2, you will have a unique opportunity to create a first impression.  Did you consider broadcasting live from Azteca in order to improve the level of the broadcast?

KD: The Telemundo Deportes team will handle the production of the game. The Telemundo Deportes team is incredibly experienced having covered hundreds of matches around the world. We’re in great hands!
We have also just posted a video that includes interviews about the game with Lionel Messi, Carlos Bocanegra, and Jorge Campos, among others. Check it out: http://www.holamun2.com/usavsmex.  We will be posting similar videos leading up to the game. We look forward to you joining us on mun2 next week. Thank you!

Thanks to Kevin Dugan:  Here are a couple of additional notes from around MLS:

We are traveling this weekend, so just a couple of quick  hits.  First, Don Garber has seemingly foreclosed the possibility of Montreal joining MLS in 2011 as part of the Vancouver/Portland entry into the League.  However, according to this article, the addition of Montreal seems like a certainty, perhaps as early as 2012.  For our thoughts on Montreal (and South Florida) joining MLS click here.

One team that will definitely be joining the League is the Philadlelphia Union.   The team is reportedly nearing 10k in ticket sales.  For those eager to see stadium progress, click here for construction photos.

Our series on MLS fans will continue this week.  Please stay tuned for more.

Expansion Update: Philly 2010

philly

Yesterday we took a look at  the expansion situation in Vancouver.  Today we thought we would take a look at how things are progressing in the City of Brother Love.  Click here for our previous post on the Union. The team website is up and running and established ticket prices and season ticket benefits.  The Union also have a name, a coach and sharp crest.  According to reports, the Team has sold just under 10k season tickets and will cap tickets at around 15k seats in its inaugural season in its 18,500 seat home in Chester.

The Union has a strong supporters group in the Sons of Ben, who have been omnipresent over the last couple of years at an array of soccer events including the announcement of the Team, MLS Cup 2007 and even at a US Open Cup game in Connecticut between the Revs and Harrisburg, PA (about 2 hours from Philly).  Its location between DC and New York should make for some good rivalry games that will bring supporters from out of town.

Yet there are doubts.  Last weekend, the US National Team drew just over 31k at “the Linc” for a Gold Cup Quarterfinal.  This was the first major soccer event in 4 decades in Philly and just months before the Union first kick.  While some are lauding the attendance, there is a good argument that the number was disappointing.  If soccer demand was so pent up in Philly, why weren’t more in attendance?  Efforts to sell the game to Eagles season ticket holders were generally unsuccessful.

At the same time, progress on the Chester stadium is progressing slowly, and there was a recent statement from team officials that the Team might need to start its 2010 season on the road in order to ensure completion. Will people be willing to travel to Chester to see the games?  There are also questions about how receptive Philly will be to a new soccer team.  Philly is a crowded sports city and the best team in town happens to play in the summer. There is some major mainstream media opposition to soccer in the City of Brotherly Love.

Ultimately, we think Philly will succeed, especially in year one.  However, we think it will be difficult for the Union to keep demand for season tickets in excess of 10k for long. A special confluence of factors have helped Seattle and Toronto succeed, none of which are present in Philly.  We hope for the best, and do believe that Philly will be a relatively strong franchise over time.  What do you think?  Vote in our poll.

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