SBD/March 12, 2013/Franchises

DC United Seek To Reverse Downward Attendance Trend Heading Into Season

DC United officials focused on improving season-ticket sales for this year
MLS DC United CMO Doug Hicks said that the club's front-office initiatives aimed at reversing a downward trend in attendance in recent years "appear to be working" as full season ticket sales are up 21% and season packages have risen 27%, according to Steven Goff of the WASHINGTON POST. But the club, which "once enjoyed the most reliable support in MLS," lsat year saw attendance figures "continue to tumble." DC United’s home average over the last five years has "plummeted" 34% to an "all-time low" of 13,846 last season. The club had 17,072 fans attend its home opener Saturday against Real Salt Lake. However, the team's recent uptick is "an encouraging sign." DC United's focus this season "was on improving season ticket orders." Hicks said, "Our base of ticket buyers wasn’t where it needed to be. Our starting point was so low, we were racing against time every Saturday night to build a crowd." DC United officials "wouldn’t reveal the number of full-season ticket equivalents." However, a source said that the team "sold 5,200 packages in 2011 and 4,300 last year." To improve season-ticket sales, the club "offered a dedicated entry gate and access to a private club, which will remain open after the game." The team also has "hired an independent advertising agency for the first time in many years" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/9).

FOOTIE FORECASTER: In DC, Dan Steinberg reported DC United "arranged a whole bunch of local media appearances for its players and coach" to "help promote" Saturday's game. One was a "morning TV gimmick," in which F Chris Pontius would "deliver the weather on the Fox 5 morning show, in place of regular meteorologist Tucker Barnes." Much of the forecast was "uneventful, until Pontius turned his forecasting eye further north." He said, "New York is still getting hit with snow, and I like that, because that means the Red Bulls are being hit with some snow right now." The seven-day outlook "got a little rocky, due to positioning issues." Barnes from off camera called, "Hey hey you're in the way of Friday there" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 3/8).

SOUNDING OFF: In Seattle, Joshua Mayers noted the MLS Sounders for their CONCACAF Champions League game against Liga MX club Tigres UANL had “ticket sales at 17,600,” and drew a lower attendance for “the first time in a two-game series.” Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer said, “I always wish that our Champions League games would draw bigger crowds, but I also know that we’re up against the realities of a general sports fan for whom Champions League is foreign.” He added, “It’s just going to take time. We could probably do a better job of continuing to drive the message in the marketplace.” Meanwhile, Hanauer said of the team taking charter flights, “Charters are expensive. There’s no two ways about it. It’s $100,000 to $200,000 every time you do it, and there are realities to the economics to our league. So we make a value judgment each time” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 3/11).
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