Once again attendance is lagging for the Columbus Crew. As of August 1st, 2013, Frankiln County's hardest working squad rank 14th out of 19 teams in Major League Soccer with an average crowd of 14,775 per match. The team was recently sold to new owner Anthony Precourt and I thought I would offer a simple, and in my opinion, a rather obvious solution to improving attendance for the 2014 season.
Let's use myself and nine year old son Owen as a test case for this study. In the past year we have attended multiply sporting events including OSU football, basketball, baseball, CBJ, Cincinnati Reds, the Memorial Golf Tournament, and countless Clippers games. Yet we haven't bought tickets to a single Crew game. What gives?
It's not like we don't enjoy the Crew experience because we do. We like the stadium, the sport and the team. Recently when we were attending the state fair to catch some pig racing (another sporting event) we parked next to Crew Stadium and Owen said, "Dad, we should go to some more Crew games". I agreed, "Yeah Owen, we should". But when it comes time to pull the trigger I always talk myself out of it and it is easy to pinpoint why..
The Crew doesn't offer any discount for youth tickets.
The cheapest ticket I can buy to a Crew game is $23 on the South endline. Add $10 for parking and Owen and I are already out $56 before one soft drink or dippin' dot has been purchased. If he brings just one friend we are up to 79 smacks. And what if Mom wants to come too? Well, that's just crazy talk. Might as well plan a weeklong trip to Disneyworld at those velocities.
And here is the thing, I am not a cheap skate. Once committed to an event I am all in. Why even bother to go if you are going to complain about the $8 beers? We all know the score before we walk in the gate. Supply and demand baby. "The Man" knows what that beer is worth and he knows damn well I am going to pay it. And get Owen what he wants too. What's fair is fair. In fact, I actively avoid crowded promotions like 'Dime a Dog'/ 'Buck a Brat' and the like. If I do mistakenly wind up at a stadium on some such night, I would rather pay a full $4.00 for a dog than wait 45 minutes in a line with a bunch of hill-jacks just to save a buck or 3.90. My point being, I am not looking for a bargain, I just need some relative economic value compared to my other family options. I have a little discretionary income to play with, but not enough that I don't have to make some sensible choices. Listen to me, rambling on like Suze Freaking Orman. Anyway...
Let's address the elephant in the room shall we? The Columbus Clippers. I can get Owen into a Clipper baseball game for just THREE DOLLARS while only paying six bucks for myself. For three bucks I have been known to pile a bunch of his friends in the car just to go down and catch a couple of innings and get some grub.
Let's get inside the numbers with some complicated "new math". Try to stay with me.
Crew Game: 2 Adults + 2 Kids + Parking = $102
Clippers Game: 2 Adults + 2 Kids + Parking = $23
Is a Crew game really $79 better than a Clipper game on the kid fun scale? I won't even bother to answer.
So if attendance is always disappointing, why doesn't the Crew start to offer discounts for youth tickets?
Occasionally, I'll pose this question when I run into somebody of consequence working in the Crew organization. After some hemming and hawing the answer they seem to suggest is that they want to be perceived as "Major League". Cheap tickets would hurt their brand. Hmm. Ok. Two big problems with this answer.
1) M.L.S. really stands for Minor League Soccer. ESPN has figured this out and started to aggressively push European football covering all sorts of games along with plenty of juicy placements on Sportscenter. Kids like Owen know all about Barcelona, Manchester U. and Messi and so forth. The game has truly gone global so it's too late for MLS to fake it like they have made it. Both the Crew and the Clippers are feeder teams to something greater. Players on both teams aspire leave Columbus in a cloud of dust or just get one last paycheck playing the sport they love. They are both minor league teams.
2) OK, let's assume the MLS is "Major League". Why do the Cincinnati Reds and Indians offer tickets for $6 and $10 respectively? Last I checked, Major League Baseball is considered pretty "Major League" yet somehow they manage to get kids into the game at a decent price without hurting their brand. What makes the Crew so smart? What do they know that the Reds, Indians and Clippers don't?
I wish the Crew and new owner Anthony Precourt all the success in the world. I cannot promise Owen and I will be attending any games this season, but we will be keeping an eye on the team from home and Huntington Park. Let's hope they can build the organization back to a Championship level and pack the house night after night with or without my advice.
Colin Gawel plays in Watershed and owns Colin's Coffee where he runs Pencilstorm in between serving customers. Learn more about him and the other Pencilstorm contributors by clicking here.