The MLS Crew currently have the perception of being a "small-market club mired in MLS 1.0," and in order to change that, new team Chair Anthony Precourt and his team "will have to work harder, spend more money and take more chances," according to Brian Straus of SI.com. There is an "acknowledged sense that the Crew lack the stature now enjoyed by other clubs." Crew President & GM Mark McCullers said of this notion, "That drives me insane. What are we, chopped liver? We've done a lot more than clubs that have that perception. Maybe it's because we haven't positioned ourselves that way. It hasn't been our style to beat our own drum. That wasn't [late Crew Founder Lamar Hunt's] style. ... There's a lot of great things going on, but we don't feel like we get the respect and recognition we should. Maybe that's spilled over into our club a little bit." Meanwhile, Straus notes Crew Stadium opened in '99 and "paved the way for a construction boom that offered clubs the opportunity to establish roots and revenue streams." What the stadium "lacks in character it makes for in significance." However, that tradition "hasn't done much for the club's Q rating," as attendance has "failed to surpass 15,000 per game every season" since '07. This year's figure of 15,249 "represents an improvement but still ranks 14th" in MLS.
A NEW CREW: Crew Stadium "needs more than corporate money," and Precourt "knows that and already is working on improvements." He will "start by spending around $200,000 to replace bleachers with 2,400 seats on the stadium's east side and said he's committed to 'benchmarking ourselves with our peers in MLS.'" Precourt: "I think if we were to do it all over again, if we'd been in Columbus since the beginning, being closer to downtown in an urban environment is what's most important. Crew Stadium isn't a destination place right now." McCullers said that the Crew is "looking to 'accelerate the conversation' with the city about either upgrading the fairground site (there are 11 years left on the club's lease) or finding a new one." Precourt also is "targeting the team logo" as something to change. He added, "The name and the colors are great. The crest, it's one of my highest priorities." Precourt said that he "intends to reach out 'to the top 40-50 companies in Columbus'" to try and establish ties. McCullers said of Precourt, "He's energetic, he's young. This is the first property that he's been involved with, so he's excited about all of those things" (SI.com, 8/23).
MLS Fire Senior Dir of Communications Dan Lobring on Wednesday posted a 1,400-word blog post that "criticized disruptive fan behavior" during a recent match at Toyota Park, and after the entry generated local and national media attention, team officials have defended the post, according to Jack McCarthy of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Fire execs say that a "small group of unruly fans’ misbehavior and personal attacks on management and staff are the issues, not the message." The post said that Fire Owner Andrew Hauptman had endured "personal attacks" by an unidentified group of fans during the team's loss to DC United in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals earlier this month, and that the attacks "were unwarranted." Fire COO Atul Khosla said, "Dan (was) highlighting that issue. And absolutely by no means is trying to disrespect the majority of the fan base that’s incredibly passionate and comes out every single game. ... We could have made (that) a little clearer." The post, labeled as an editorial, drew a bevy of comments on Twitter and also was covered by Deadspin. Senior Fire management "reviewed and endorsed Lobring's commentary before publication." Khosla: "It’s his point of view, but it’s not being published without me reading it or me saying 'OK.'" Hauptman said of the situation, "What I believe he was trying to communicate was that our staff, our players and our ownership care deeply about the club and we try ... to act with respect, integrity and responsibility, and we expect our fans to uphold those same standards" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/23).
DID HAUPTMAN PLAY A ROLE HERE? In Chicago, Seth Gruen reports Hauptman during the U.S. Open Cup game was "chastised by a number of fans in the stands." He lives in L.A. and "doesn’t attend every game." Numerous sources said that Hauptman is "image-conscious." One source added that this "could be Hauptman's shortcoming." The source said, "That’s Andrew’s downfall as an owner: He thinks he can control the message when there’s word of mouth to undermine his efforts" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/23).
AEG Sports COO Kelly Cheeseman said that there “won’t be an alumni game” surrounding the Jan. 25 Kings-Ducks Coors Light NHL Stadium Series event at Dodger Stadium. Cheeseman said, “We went through that exercise ad nauseum to try to make that work, because … we were very excited about that possibility. But, unfortunately, just the logistics and the timing of our game, and the concerns of the ice conditions, aren’t going to allow us to pull off an alumni game.” He added, “We looked at all the possibilities, and then we just said for the good of the game and for protecting the ice conditions, we needed to make sure that we held that integrity” (Jon Rosen, LAKINGSINSIDER.com, 8/22).
TAKE A HIKE: In Toronto, Rosie DiManno wrote under the header, “Greediness of Maple Leafs franchise knows no bounds.” While many fans will object to the team’s new ticket pricing, "the disgruntlement will not affect sales one iota.” The Leafs “plan to hike prices on a tiered basis” for the ‘13-14 season with ticket prices “jacked up for visits by 'premium'" teams. DiManno: “The franchise operates in an environment that defies real world verisimilitude” (TORONTO STAR, 8/22).
COME ON BACK: On Long Island, Cody Derespina noted the Yankees want to reward fans who held tickets to Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays, which had a 3.5-hour rain delay before the first pitch. Anyone with a valid Aug. 22 ticket, “regardless of whether they attended the game or not, can use it to redeem a free Grandstand Level or Terrace Level ticket at the Stadium” for any game during their Sept. 2-4 series with the White Sox. Fans can also use the ticket as a 50% off coupon to "any other non-suite portion of the park during the same series" (NEWSDAY.com, 8/22).
FAILING GRADE: In Sacramento, Tom Couzens noted the A's have "been one of the best teams" in the AL, and are on pace to reach the playoffs. However, he asked, “Where are all their fans?” Only 11,112 showed up at O.co Coliseum on Monday night, the “24th time this season the A's have drawn fewer than 20,000 fans.” The A’s average attendance of 22,990 entering Tuesday night was “25th in the major leagues” (SACBEE.com, 8/21).