COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 10: Fans salute the Colorado Rapids as they take the field to face the Columbus Crew at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on March 10, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
It's a bit early to draw any conclusions from this season's attendance numbers, after all we've only seen five games at Dick's Sporting Goods Park with the majority of the year so far spent away from home. Still, the trend of the Rapids having somewhat jumpy attendance depending on opponent has fit fairly well with other years at DSGP so far so I figure it's time to take a look at our attendance.
The biggest thing that we look for yearly when it comes to a team that is still gaining its sea legs in its sixth year at a soccer specific stadium in a somewhat small market is consistent growth of attendance and fan response. Since 2010, a big year for the team and the supporters in more than one way, it's been encouraging.
The question is, will it continue to encourage this season?
Excluding 2007 when the Rapids got the benefit of that new stadium smell, the numbers for the team were pretty bad at the start of the DSGP era. (I don't know if all of these numbers are correct for some of the earlier years since I got them from varied sources, but they seem ballpark at the very least.)
Ideally, the team should be growing their numbers every single year following 2009, the lowest ebb of the team in quite a while -- they missed the playoffs that year for the umpteenth time in a row, was still hurting from the previous regime's decisions and was altogether just blah.
As I said before, 2010 is the big one to watch here. That's when the two Terraces were built into the stadium and the Pid Army/BSG became solid, lasting supporters groups to join in with Class VI. I hear that something else happened at the end of 2010 as well which helped the team out a bit, something about a cup. Through 2010, we were saying that the team needed to break 14K to be a successful season and surprisingly they were able to not only do that but beat it by 800.
I was pleasantly surprised, as that also meant an 82% capacity filling at the stadium, which I wrote was more important than raw numbers last year.
How are the numbers this year? Well, they fit the pattern that the Rapids have put together the past several seasons: all over the map. The team seems to have attendances based not on the team, but who the team is playing. While a team like Portland will fill the house whoever is there, the Rapids will always draw more attention to a game against the LA Galaxy than they will against the Columbus Crew.
Really, the question will be if the fans can boost the smaller game attendances while still keeping the big game attendances. So far it's looked pretty darn good, they've had three 'small attendance' games and two 'big attendance' games and have outpaced last season overall.
That works out to a 14,658 attendance average so far, not enough to outpace last season's numbers yet -- and it's too soon to say if they'll get all that much higher as the season goes along.
Is it too soon to hope for a number above 15K at the end of the season? Probably. The key will be to get the crowds at the games where we expect lower numbers to stay around the number from the Chicago game rather than the Chivas game. At the very least, it looks very unlikely that we're going to see another game where only 9000 people show up like last year's DC United match in the snow so that's a boost.
It'd be nice if the product on the field got better as well, Denver is a town notorious for wanting to see winners above everything else. Just because of the way that Denver sports fans tend to be, I'd say that if the Rapids can ever hit an average of 16K per game and keep that steady year after year, we'll have hit a perfect success in Denver. (Of course, stadium capacity certainly wouldn't hurt anyone!)
We'll see how the fans come out to see the team against Montreal, a draw that should interest a decent number of people simply because it's a team we've never seen before in MLS play.