Friday, February 20, 2009

2/20/09: The Attendance Debate

In our lives we are defined by special events that are like milestones that tell our story. To some it might be a marriage, a college degree, or even having a beautiful child. Yesterday I took my milestone, finally reaching the realm of becoming a Crew season ticket holder. Yes...yes... you might mock what I consider a major milestone for myself, but rest assured my student rate season ticket in the Nordecke of $208 dollars was the best spent money on my meager budget in a long, long time. I hope that I am only one of many this year that will become season ticket holders and help increase our attendance for the upcoming season, and from pressing my ticket rep, from what I hear, we have already so far this offseason have had a substantial increase in new ticket packages being sold.

Turn on the TV and its obvious, we are in what is called one of the worst economic downtimes since at least the mid 1970's, and as Crew fans we have to wonder, can we withstand this storm and bring more people after a banner championship year? Even the Luchador has blogged a great commentary on the financial state of the Columbus Crew. Confounding as it seems, we actually had less attendance last year dipping under the 15,000 mark making us the 10th most attended team in the MLS. With increased competition from the new Clippers stadium in the arena district also, we will be harder pressed to prove ourselves to the nation this upcoming summer. The good news? From 10 out of 15 of MLS ticket reprentatives contact in an article from Sports Business Journal, ticket sales are up or staying the same from this last year. That's great news considering also that Seattle just today passed 20,000 in season ticket holder sales. I can almost assure you that from my contact with the FO and this article, we are probably in that camp of 10 teams for sure. The strength of the MLS is gaining, with 5 new SSS on docket in New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Kansas City, and DC to be completed or in contruction within the next 2 years.

From what it seems, the MLS might be the modern day baseball of the depression, bringing disinfranchised populations to cheap sporting events to take their minds off the ill of the certain economic situation. From the Crew standpoint, I took great advantage of the delayed payment system, where I only have to make my payments over the full season instead of one lump payment. A system like that I think will be very pleasing to a lot of cheaper budget individuals such as myself.

I personally have the opinion that we will break at 16,000 for an average attendance next season. Unfortunately, what kills that average is those dreadful months of March and April. So let us take a look at how our schedule lines up this year....

03/21 - Saturdayat Houston Dynamo8:00 p.m. * buy tickets! FSC, FSE
03/28 - SaturdayToronto FC4:00 p.m. * buy tickets!
04/02 - Thursdayat Real Salt Lake9:00 p.m. * buy tickets! ESPN2, Deportes
04/05 - Sundayat Chivas USA8:00 p.m.
04/11 - SaturdayColorado Rapids7:30 p.m. * buy tickets!
04/25 - SaturdayChicago Fire7:00 p.m. * buy tickets! FSC, FSE

Looking at this schedule I feel like the MLS has really thrown us a bone this year, we get national tv coverage on our first 2 away games which can be marketed to the Columbus public (assuming they have the tv package through time warner with FSC) and one of those games being on ESPN 2 in what will be presumed to be a sold out RSL Rio Tinto. Throw in two marquee rivalry matches with Toronto and Chicago, I think our attendance will stay pretty steady. My only scare? Colorado. I have a feeling that could be a lower attended game for the season maybe dipping into the 10,000 number. Hopefully we wont see the Chivas fiasco of last year when no one is in the stadium, but we can only hope.

As for my prediction, 16,000 for our average next year? Whats your take?


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