Chicago Fire Attendance: Do You Know the Way to Bridgeview?

chicago-fireAttendance issues are all the rage in MLS circles with pundits and fans floating the economy, the absence of Beckham and a multitude of other reasons for the slow-down in ticket sales this year.  In Chicago, the Fire have added a new possibility to the equation:  maybe the fans can’t find the stadium.  The Sun-Times is reporting on a study commissioned by the Fire to evalute the causes of their attendance slowdown.   According to the study, a large number of fans either think they know Toyota Park is inconveniently located, or, believe that it is.  Remarkably, fans assumed that the stadim is 70 minutes away, even though many of the surveyed masses lived within 20 miles of the stadium.

The article goes on to discuss the public transportation options to shuttle fans to Bridgeview.  Public transportation options are limited, and Chicago fans are used to having their stadiums downtown.  Interestingly, the study also revealed that the Fire and MLS are an integral part of the Chicago sports landscape.  90%  of fans were aware that Chicago has a professional soccer team and 65% knew of the Fire without prompting (this may not sound impressive, but 10% of New Yorkers probably have never heard of the Yankees).

Ultimately, it seems to come down to location, location, etc…. The suburban/urban city debate has raged in MLS for years, with Dallas, Chicago and New England among the teams outside city limits, with Toronto, Seattle and Columbus holding down more urban locations.  The location debate is part of the larger marketing debate we have been discussing for months.  Stadium in the suburbs = familes and soccer moms.  Stadium in the City = younger, rowdier fans.  Right now, the city teams seem to be doing better. Will it continue?