Thursday, April 10, 2014

Paid attendance low for Bradenton MLS preseason

A sparse crowd watches Columbus Crew play Malmo FF at IMG Academy
during MLS preseason play on Feb. 5. FILE PHOTO By Paul Videla
While the stands were filled for some of the Major League Soccer  winter preseason games at IMG Academy, many of those tickets were freebies.

Numbers released by IMG Academy to Manatee County Government officials show that paid attendance was abysmal. IMG's multi-purpose stadium can hold 5,000  people for one game. Over the course of eight games, 5,079 people paid to watch preseason games over the entire season, according to the attendance figures.

That comes to $28,206.13 in total revenue, and as part of an agreement with the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, 25 percent, or $7,051.53 will be given to the EDC.

Here is the breakdown of attendance, courtesy of IMG:

Tickets Sold
NE Revolution vs Malmo FF
Doubleheader: Columbus Crew vs Malmo FF & Toronto FC vs DC United
Chicago Fire vs DC United
Chicago Fire vs Orlando City
Chicago Fire vs DC United
USF vs FC Dallas
Ft. Lauderdale Strikers vs FC Dallas

As you can see, the largest turnout was for the Chicago Fire and DC United's Feb. 8 Saturday night match and the lowest was a Wednesday afternoon game between University of South Florida and FC Dallas.

Chris Ciaccio, vice president of marketing and community outreach for IMG Performance, acknowledge the attendance issues, but was upbeat about the showing.

"Keep in mind we gave away a significant number of free tickets for the events to drive attendance. All in all for a year-one event we are pleased with the outcome," Ciaccio said in an email to county officials. "We are also pleased with the PR and marketing value the Bradenton Area received and continues to receive."

Ticket giveaways are a common occurrence in pro sports to drive attendance, especially for struggling teams and for sports that are trying to gain exposure in new markets. IMG and county officials acknowledged during the preseason that the expanded preseason was challenging to put together based on the short lead time from MLS to bring everything together and coordinate teams. They predict next year will be better because they have a year to plan.

One noticeable snafu was that games with FC Dallas were not announced until toward the end of the preseason. Fans also shared their own critiques of the production, too.

The expanded MLS preseason in Bradenton was the first time MLS brought six teams to Bradenton, exclusively holding games at IMG instead of split between Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch. International, college and minor league teams also competed during the friendlies.

The goal of the agreement is to make IMG Academy the Eastern Conference hub by hosting all 10 Eastern Conference teams for training and friendlies.

Ciaccio also told officials in the email that he is working with Elliot Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau to summarize the coverage and market reach to date saying the "initial stats are very positive."

The agreement also gave the Bradenton CVB exposure online on MLS club sites and the MLS site via online ads and live game streams, exposing new markets to Bradenton, Falcione previously told the Herald.

1 comment:

  1. Are u saying IMG donated $7,000 to the EDC... thats kinda cool.