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Volume 22 No. 35
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NYCFC finds new fans via College Pass program

NYCFC’s ticketing experiment with its final 10 home games in 2018 showed popularity with college students.
Photo: getty images

NYCFC and Real Salt Lake are the only two MLS teams offering a ticket subscription that guarantees a ticket to every match in an unassigned seat, similar to the Ballpark Pass programs in baseball. But the MLS clubs limit buyers to college students.

NYCFC, which plays its home games in Yankee Stadium, experimented with that type of program last year for games that followed the World Cup. It was an effort that Mike Quarino, NYCFC vice president of ticket sales and fan service, said was “designed to take advantage of the buzz of the World Cup, engage with fans we hadn’t in the past and remove price as a barrier.”

That program, priced at $99 for the team’s final 10 home games in 2018, quickly found success, Quarino said. When the ticket sales team investigated who was buying those tickets, something popped up more frequently than not — a college email address. Quarino said of the group that bought those tickets, 30% upgraded into larger packages this year.

That led the team to launch a new program this year that is offered exclusively to college students, offering access to however many games are left at the time of purchase at less than $20 per ticket — restricted to upper endline seats.

Quarino said that several hundred people had signed up for the program, which will be cut off later this summer when only a few games are left. He said the club already is thinking about bringing the program back next year. Some changes could include basing the program around college semesters, so that students leaving New York following the spring don’t need to sign up for the whole year, or perhaps a summer plan for those students now back at home.

While he said NYCFC also will look at introducing smaller ticketing packages to appeal to all price points, Quarino said he doesn’t think something like Ballpark Pass would work in MLS for a number of reasons.

“The big challenge would be the volume of games — how do you make someone pay something for the month of May when we have no games that month, but then have them pay in June when we might have three or four?” he said. “There also is the fact that many of our fans prefer to stand for the whole game, even if they have a seat — for a four-hour baseball game, the potential of that happening might be viewed as a negative.”

Quarino said the fact that most MLS stadiums are also smaller than MLB venues would likely restrict the league from implementing something like this, as well as trying to protect their current members from feeling like their season tickets are being devalued.

“Any time we do a flash sale for, say, Memorial Day weekend tickets, we’ll get comments on Twitter or via email from our members asking why we’re doing this, or what can we offer them then,” he said. “With the College Pass, there hasn’t been one complaint.”