NYC FC Details How It Will Co-Exist With Yankees; Pernetti Talks Tickets, Marketing
NYC FC yesterday confirmed that it will play its inaugural MLS season in ’15 at Yankee Stadium, a move that solidifies the team's short-term future and allows season-ticket sales to begin. The club will play all 17 home games in the ballpark, which will have a reduced capacity from 49,642 for baseball to 33,444 for soccer. The pitcher’s mound will be removed prior to each NYC FC match. It will take three days to completely reconfigure the park from baseball-ready to soccer-ready. The news was announced via a press conference at Yankee Stadium with NYC FC execs joined by Yankees President Randy Levine and COO Lonn Trost. The club, which is jointly owned by the Yankees and EPL club Manchester City, entered MLS with ambitions of building a soccer-specific stadium. NYC FC Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti yesterday said that goal is still his "No. 1 priority." But with the team's debut 11 months away and no progress being made on a stadium site, NYC FC was under increasing pressure to find at least a short-term fix. Pernetti said that the club is only officially committing to playing its first season at Yankee Stadium, but said it is "likely" NYC FC will play there beyond ’15. A report last week had the club calling the Bronx home for three years. Pernetti said that the club considered multiple venues to play in next year, but Yankee Stadium ended up being the clear choice. Officials for both the Yankees and NYC FC at yesterday’s event dismissed suggestions that the soccer pitch will be too narrow and that the field could fall victim to wear and tear. Pernetti: "The Yankees are no stranger to doing other events at Yankee Stadium, both inside and outside the season. They've done it in a variety of different sports and have done it seamlessly, so we don't have any concerns."
GET YOUR TICKETS: The club yesterday also announced it will start accepting down payments on season-ticket plans. While the plan prices will not be released until summer, the team sold 1,100 deposits in the last 24 hours. There are three different tiers: standing-room supporter group ($30 deposit); general admission ($50); and premium seats ($200). Pernetti said the club will look to work with the Yankees where it can to create crossover season-ticket holders for both clubs. He noted NYC FC will consider using dynamic pricing for single-game tickets depending on several factors, including how initial season-ticket sales go. The club has already made about 25 hires on the business side and is looking to approximately double that number by next season. That includes positions in ticket sales, fan services, a head of marketing and communications.
CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Pernetti said that the MLS club will embark on a marketing campaign over the coming months centered around fan engagement initiatives similar to when NYC FC used a fan vote to determine its logo. He added, "Beyond that, I think we'll look to take advantage of the World Cup this year and activate as much as we can in New York when the awareness of soccer is at its height." Pernetti said merchandise sales on NYC FC’s Legends-run e-commerce website have been brisk so far, with more than $25,000 sold in the first week of availability. Team gear also is beginning to pop up at retail shops throughout the city. The club is projected to unveil its first kit in either late summer or early fall. Pernetti noted the Yankees and NYC FC have been looking for sponsorship deals that encompass both teams - deals he thinks will eventually come to fruition. Pernetti said as part of Yankee Stadium’s design for soccer, the outfield wall "will be something that we can brand, and we intend to utilize for branding at NYC FC and potentially some other partners. And I think there will be other areas of Yankee Stadium that will be branded as you see it today." However, fans should not make too much of a potential cross-town rivalry with the nearby Red Bulls. Pernetti said, "I'm of the mind when it comes to rivalries that they need to hatch organically. I think that's something that probably will more develop itself more than it can be developed by the guys in the suits behind the desks."
OUT OF SCHOOL: The move to the soccer world is a change for Pernetti, who had spent the majority of his professional life in the college realm before resigning as Rutgers AD last year as part of the Mike Rice scandal. He said the transition from colleges to pro soccer has been “eye-opening.” Pernetti: “Sports business is a really tight-knit industry; everybody knows everybody. I had existing relationships with people at the Yankees. But the people at Manchester City I was meeting for the first time. For me, it's been really educational to kind of witness the sport and how it's growing here in the U.S. as part of MLS. The opportunity to build a pro sports franchise in New York City is something that I feel really lucky to have been selected to be a part of.”