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.

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Soccer Business Bits: Wizards Construction, AC Milan Returns & More

As progress continues on their new stadim, the Wizards offered an interesting opportunity to season ticket holders prior to Saturday’s home game.  Season ticket holders were invited to sign a steel beam part that was to be part of the new building.  According to Wizards President Robb Heineman,   “Construction on the stadium is moving at a rapid pace, and we’re pleased to be this far along this early in the process…inviting season ticket holders to this event is a great way to get fans connected to our club, our stadium and our vision for soccer in Kansas City.”   After the signing, the beam was placed into the structure.  This was a great way for the team to integrate its fan base into the new stadium.

In DC, Steve Goff is reporting on an AC Milan/DC United friendly in May.  These friendlies were an enormous success last year during the European pre-season, but the May game comes at the of a long campaign for AC Milan and prior to the World Cup.  Given that many of the Milan stars will not be at the match, it is quite possible that the match will draw a fairly weak crowd.  Moreover, there will not be a significant lead time for an ad campaign.  It will be interesting to monitor ticket sales for this game as the date nears.

Finally, in the wake of the successful home opener in Philly, we thought we would show you the status of PPL Park.

The MLS Schedule: A Business Analysis

MLS unveiled its 2010 schedule and we thought it worthwhile to take a look at some of the business themes that emerged in the release.

1.  National TV: One third of all games will be nationally televised on FSC, ESPN & Telefutura.  This includes at least 25 ESPN HD games and 30 FSC HD games. Telefutura has moved its primary broadcast day from Sunday afternoon to Saturday afternoon (as an aside, this could provide a small attendance jump).  Chicago, Los Angeles and Philly each have 16 national broadcast dates, while the Revs and Wizards have 4 and 3 respectively.  This shows MLS and its broadcast partners are paying attention to atmosphere, camera angles and star power when assigning games.

2. Stadium openings: The opening of Red Bull Arena will be broadcast to a national audience as the Red Bulls host the Fire on the original ESPN.  The first grass match at BMO Field will be on ESPN2.  PPL Park (the new Union home) will open on June 27 as part of a soccer tripleheader that will rely on the World Cup broadcasts earlier in the day to pump viewership. Interesting to see how that strategy works…tough even for die-hards to get 6 hours of soccer in a day.

3.  World Cup:  The league will take a 2-3 week for the World Cup.  Every four years soccer fans wonder whether the World Cup will drive interest in MLS.  A good showing by the US could certainly increase interest in MLS.

4. Philly:  The Union will open on the road and then play a few games at “the Linc”, but the majority of their home games will come at PPL Park.  However, the home dates will be significantly back-loaded.  This is a strategy we support….the fewer games at the Linc the better.

5. Potpurri:  3 dates when all teams play.  Superliga will take place in July.  Seattle has the most home national TV dates (makes sense).

Money in Philly: Union Ink Stadium Deal

The Sports Business Journal is reporting that the Philadelphia Union are set to sign a ten year naming rights deal with energy firm PPL Corp. for the new $120 million stadium on the Chester Waterfront.  The agreement has been announced at $20 million dollars for the life of the deal and the new facility will be called PPL Park.  In addition to stadium naming rights, PPL will also get hospitality events and experiences at the stadium, TV and radio advertising, signage boards and sponsorship rights in the youth soccer programs in which the Union have a foothold.  Given Pennsylvania’s recent de-regulation of the power industry, PPL is making a calculated gamble that now is a great time to enter the world of sports marketing.

Despite economic conditions, the deal compares favorably with those of other MLS stadiums.  Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is a 20 year, $30 million dollar deal, BMO is 10 years and $23 million and Toyota Park is 10 years and $7.5 million.  The outlier is the 10 year $70 million dollar deal for the Home Depot Center.  According to the article, other suitors including Waste Management, Sony, Amway, Under Armour & Coke.  Coke will ultimately be announced as the team’s soft drink sponsor.