VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC held a midseason media roundtable on Monday afternoon with co-owner Jeff Mallett, president Bob Lenarduzzi, chief operating officer Rachel Lewis, and vice president of soccer operations Greg Anderson providing a number of updates on a wide-range of topics.
Here are some notes and quotes from the discussion.
- Averaging nearly 21,000 for MLS regular season matches
- Seven of nine home MLS matches have been sellouts
- Positive growth on season ticket members – now just over 14,000
- Club will run fourth-annual 12 per cent off for 12 days season ticket campaign from September 17 to 28
On whether there needs to be a specific season ticket member base to expand the seating capacity:
“It’s a question we’re constantly asking ourselves,” Lewis said. “I don’t think there’s a specific number [of season ticket holders] per se. Generally, people look at their bases and say you want 65 to 70 per cent of your building to be season ticket holders. We’re starting to get to that place, but we need to see the building continue to sell out. Some of those September games are already in fantastic shape with big teams like Seattle and New York, but we need to make sure Columbus on a Wednesday is selling out. So there isn’t a magic number, but we’re watching it closely.”
On potentially expanding the specific capacity for certain games:
“We’re looking at all those things,” Lewis said. “Right now, the goal is, ‘Let’s try to sell out the balance of this season so we’re having the tough conversation about when the right time is to expand capacity' … we don’t really want to have 30,000 here and 8,000 there. We need to decide what the next step is, whether that’s 21 to 23 or 24, whatever that number is, we need to make sure that we feel confident we can challenge the market to fill that building consistently every game so the good work that’s been done to create that great atmosphere doesn’t get lost.”
“It’s really about creating that environment,” added Mallett. “If we wanted to optimize every dollar, sure we could do this and that … the great news is that we have a world-class facility that is capable of expanding. We will get there.”
On players like Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Andrea Pirlo entering the league and whether it’s tempting to make a similar big-name signing:
“We look at them all,” Mallett said. “We constantly look at it. We’re never surprised at what comes into the league. We never say, ‘We wish we could’ or ‘Wow, how they’d get that person?’ With Robbo’s connections, with Martyn [Pert’s] connections, with Bobby’s connections, with my connections at Derby, we hear a lot. We choose to make our decisions on our own … we have every opportunity to make any move we want going forward. But we don’t want the knee-jerk either. We’re on the right path, so to get someone you’re not 100 per cent sure is going to kick you on, and you move someone younger to the side, those ones Robbo [isn’t really keen on]. We’ll have a great press conference, it will be awesome, but if we’re sitting sixth in the West in the first week of October, it’s not a good thing.”
“When are we going to spend the big money on the Giovincos and such? Well you know what, we may at some point,” Lenarduzzi said. “But realistically, we are a club that’s going to develop players. We want to be known around the world and be compared to an Ajax or Lyon in France that actually do a great job of developing players and are very competitive along the way.”
“We’re always looking at it and for us it’s really about finding the right opportunity,” Lewis said. “We feel like this is a market that is used to big events so it has to be a big team … we’re always in that conversation. But when we looked at a year like this, the schedule is so congested with three competitions it wasn’t even really possible to contemplate another game.”
“We set a high bar,” Mallett added. “It’s either club X, Y, or Z and if it’s not X, Y, or Z with everything else going on, we’ve passed as of right now.”
“It didn’t happen, but Bayern Munich were an option last year,” Lenarduzzi said. “We went right down to the wire but it didn’t happen.”
“Ultimately, they decided they didn’t want any more games,” Lewis confirmed.
NATIONAL SOCCER DEVELOPMENT CENTRE UPDATE
- There will be two turf fields, two grass fields, and the building itself
- The building will be exclusively for Whitecaps FC use, with a wing for university and community use
- Construction is underway – one field is complete
- The two grass fields are prioritized for Whitecaps FC, with some community access
- One turf field will be primarily for UBC use, the other turf field will be primarily for Whitecaps FC
- The facility will have a direct connection to the fields
- The club currently has nine different Academy Centres set up in 13 cities, and three different provinces, across Canada
- There will be another announcement later this week that will incorporate another province
“These are something we’re proud of and as time goes on, we’ll be even prouder,” Lenarduzzi said. “We intend to have our footprint all over Canada. I know that we have territories in Quebec and Ontario that we can’t stray into but that won’t stop us from investigating areas outside of that.”
'CAPS IN THE COMMUNITY
This season, Whitecaps FC refined their community focus to mental and physical health for youth. The club's two key partners are BC Children's Hospital Foundation, who receive 50/50 proceeds from the club's MLS matches, and Covenant House, which provides shelter and services to more than 1,500 homeless youth.
On that note, Whitecaps FC have nominated Steve McMinn, a head volunteer at Covenant House, for this year's MLS Community MVP contest. Vancouver's nominee has won the league-wide initiative the last two years.
The 'Caps reach over 32,000 participants per year through their community programs.
“It's really at the heart of what we do,” Lewis said.
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