Oh when the fans, go marching in...
Before the season, I said that the Colorado Rapids should at the very least be averaging 14,001+ fans per game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park by the end of 2011 in their championship defending season, which would be an increase of fewer than 1000 fans at the park per game but still a big milestone for the Rapids as it would be their first time EVER breaking 14000 in their history. Periodically throughout the season I'll check in on the Rapids attendance and see how it is stacking up.
Colorado's attendance in 2010 was one of the lower points for the team. Averaging 13,329 fans, they were the 5th lowest draw in the league ahead only of New England, Dallas, Kansas City and San Jose, with the latter two both teams with stadiums so small that it would be almost impossible for them to outdraw Colorado. The attendance had actually improved significantly from 2009 when Colorado had just a hair over 12k at every game, an increase of about 8%. Unfortunately, going from worse to bad rarely gets you headlines in this league and Colorado still remained one of the laughing-stocks of the league by year's end when they couldn't even come close to a sell out of their first round playoff match against Columbus. The addition of the supporters terraces to the pitch helped bump up attendance as well as the Rapids would see 500-1000 people crowding the two sides each and every game.
Check out what we've seen this year so far after the jump...
Current Home Attendances:
A small sample size of four games is what we have to work with so far, and while the Rapids aren't currently on course to my prediction of 14,000, we're not looking terrible either. To the casual observer, the Rapids are currently averaging 13,243 - good for 3rd worst in the league behind only New England and San Jose - which is actually fewer than they saw on average last season. Problematic to the naked eye, perhaps. But the unfortunate case of sample size is killing the Rapids as one of those four games was the dismally attended DC United match that took place in sub-freezing weather with snow littering the ground and another a blustering windy affair which had the people of the press box wearing parkas. Colorado has always been a somewhat weather-dependent town for pretty much every sport except for the NFL so the attendance of 9,857 on that frozen afternoon will most likely by season's end be an outlier.
In fact, if we stack those by weather, the attendances look like this:
Beautiful mid-70's day that also happened to be the home opener: 17,139
Beautiful mid-70's day: 14,185
40's and windy: 11,789
Low 30's and snowing: 9,857
Correlation does not equal causation obviously, and saying that the weather is to blame for the Rapids attendance being below last year's average right now would just be idiotic of me, but it most certainly does factor in. Take out that DC match and suddenly the Rapids are up to 14,371 attendance which looks a heck of a lot better than the 13,000 we're currently seeing fill the Dick every week. With only four games and decent weather being predicted right now for Sunday's match against Toronto FC, the addition of that game will probably help indicate just a bit closer how the attendance will be after all the games at home have been played.
Something that will undoubtedly help the Rapids out is the fact that there is a complete plethora of games in July and June, a time when only mid-season Rockies baseball is around to distract Coloradan sports fans and the weather is almost guaranteed to be good - let's just forget about that Hurricane that hit Colorado last season on the 4th of July - so an attendance statistic that tends to work in streaks will be helped by this a good chunk.
Another fantastic thing that the Rapids have been doing quite a bit more this season compared to seasons prior - I don't recall seeing them do much of anything like this back in 2007 when I was a season ticket holder the year that the beautiful new stadium first opened - is marketing the team to the casual fan. Not only was the advertisement that they put out for television a lovely thing to behold, if not resembling a David Lynch film a bit too much for my taste, but the promotions that the Rapids have been pushing on the fanbase and casual fans around Colorado have been plentiful and fantastic.
Starting with the Toronto FC game, the Rapids 5 game pack is being sold trying to fill out the stadium for the biggest games of the season against teams like derby rival Real Salt Lake - which would be fantastic considering it's a Friday game - and the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Supporters Groups (Class VI/Pid Army and the Bulldog Supporters Group) are getting into the act as well with reduced ticket prices and promotions trying to get more fans into the terraces and section 108. Of course, at this point getting anyone into the stadium who is new is a good idea, no matter where they choose to stand or sit.
Not ideal, but 13,000 really isn't a terrible number for four games considering the conditions. If we were at 11,000 or even 12,000 right now there might be cause for concern, but there should be no worries right now. Call me optimistic for taking this current attendance in stride, but there should be shinier days ahead for the Rapids and my 14,000 prediction for the end of the season is still very easily in sight.