Monday, April 03, 2006

Houston soccer a hit

One game does not a season make, but a bad opening night can damn a team's run. It was just last Thursday that Houston Dynamo officials were publicly voicing concerned that ticket sales were not going well. They had only had 2,000 season tickets sold and were optimistically hoping for a 20,000 strong crowd for their home opener*. Their final number for Sunday's game: 25,462.

The fact they were able to bring so many fans out after only calling Houston home for 90-days speaks well of their prospects. Add to it that the match was outstanding, and you having the makings of a hit on your hands. It will get harder when baseball season arrives (10 of their home matches are on home dates for the Astros), but if they can convince people that the money they would pay for some of the worse baseball seats would be better spent getting center seats for soccer, they could have something (3rd level Terrace Deck Astro tickets are $20ea while center Dynamo tickets are $25 adult/ $20 youth on game day).

Even better news, this opening day saw attendance numbers jump by 70%. Here are the numbers:

Home team2006Home team2005
Kansas City18,143Kansas City13,484
Houston25,462San Jose8,730
LA27,000New York12,657

Obviously, not apples to apples here since only three of the cities (and two of the venues) are the same from 2005, but since even the worse attendance number for this year (Kansas City - 18,143) is almost as good as the best number from 2005 (Chivas - 18,493), I think it is safe to call this a success.

One other note about the 2005 numbers, last year opening day was also the day Pope John Paul II died. I'm sure some people stayed home to watch the news or attend church services, but I do not think that explains away 55,000 fans.

As good as these numbers are, I am concerned about a couple of them. Dallas opened at home on national TV and could not sell out their stadium (the park holds 21,193). Those empty seats were the one part of the game that did not look good on TV. The FCD total is a fantastic improvement over last year's Cotton Bowl opener, but it is a shame they could not announce a sellout. The other number is Kansas City. Again, wonderful improvement over last year, but if this team is to stay in the area, they will need to see a huge retention rate in fans.

That said, even these worries are little. When you see 70% yer-to-year growth in anything, you know something is going right. Congratulations to LA for having the only sellout of the weekend and to DC who always puts on a good showing. Now let's see if we can make this last.

*The cynical amongst us might think they were down playing the ticket sales in order to get better press the next day, but the reports of extremely long lines that resulted in a 10-minute or so delay in the start time of the match suggests otherwise.



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