MLS a hot ticket for new franchise - The Province
BY MARC WEBER
Bob Lenarduzzi had one reason to be restless Friday night. He had 4,000 reasons to smile on Saturday.
The Whitecaps' president said he didn't get much sleep on the eve of his franchise releasing season tickets for their inaugural MLS season in 2011. He was concerned the public wasn't feeling what he was feeling.
Consider those concerns laid to rest.
Within hours of season ticket deposits going on sale at 10 a.m., the Whitecaps reported that 4,000 of the 5,000 available had been scooped up.
"We're absolutely ecstatic with the response," said Lenarduzzi. "The energy that [the MLS announcement on Wednesday] seemed to generate -- I hoped it wasn't just me misreading it.
"My belief is the MLS brand is a strong one and for people who are trying to grasp where we are now and where we are going, I think the equivalent is Triple A baseball to the major leagues.
"Now we're going up to the big leagues and I think that's resonated with people."
A renovated B.C. Place is expected to hold 20,000 for soccer games and the Whitecaps plan to cap season tickets at 16,500.
After the initial threshold of 5,000 is reached, there will be another batch of deposits taken, but first the organization will give its existing United Soccer Leagues ticket package holders the chance to reserve as many as eight MLS season tickets.
Currently, the Whitecaps have around 2,200 season ticket holders at Swangard Stadium, a group that did not have to place deposits Saturday.
A decision on ticket pricing is many months away. Seattle made its MLS debut on Thursday in front of 32,523 frenzied fans and the vast majority of Sounders tickets range from $20 to $49.
On Friday, MLS awarded its 18th franchise to Portland -- tugging harder on the heart strings of Vancouverites who fondly remember the I-5 rivalries from the North American Soccer Leagues days and making for a perfect launch week for the Whitecaps.
"We'd like to suggest we scripted the Portland part as well," said Lenarduzzi, noting they did time their announcement to coincide with Seattle's franchise opener.
"I watched [the Sounders game] with sheer delight."
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