Colorado Rapids management has for years fought the perception that the club is not committed to its own success. The Rapids went far in dispelling that image with a new deal for Tim Hinchey, a team president who seems to be taking the club in the right direction.
Hinchey put ink to the deal this week to conclude discussions that started in January.
Hinchey started as a marketing executive when the Rapids won the Major League Soccer Cup in 2010. Despite the club's success at the time, Rapids upper management then seemed flaky. Hinchey has infused a sense of professionalism with the Rapids in the last few years. He's made an earnest effort to increase attendance and market share in the Colorado sports scene.
Hinchey has also greased the skids to allow for a stronger commitment to attracting and keeping key talent on the roster. In the pre-Hinchey years, the Rapids seemed content in taking a patchwork approach to addressing roster needs, usually by signing overpriced and aged players to the team and neglecting any meaningful youth movements.
Although he certainly didn't do it on his own, but the Rapids have taken a more sophisticated approach in scouting and drafting young talent. The result is top rookies from a year ago in Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown. Those smart picks have been accompanied with showing a willingness to spend money on more established talents like Gabriel Torres and Vicente Sanchez.
On the business side, Hinchey helped put his stamp on his tenure with the Rapids by enlisting a company to spend money on a jersey sponsorship earlier this month.
It hasn't been all roses for Hinchey. His handling of Oscar Pareja's departure seemed clumsy (we say "seemed" because we still don't know how things went down, and Hinchey hasn't ever really addressed it). And the prolonged interim tag applied to eventual head coach Pablo Mastroeni was similarly tone deaf. While the Rapids have a ways to go in the public relations department, the team has made great strides elsewhere.
Still the biggest challenge before Hinchey is boosting attendance. The good news is Hinchey seems to at least acknowledge that reality. The bad news is achieving the task won't be easy. The Rapids managed to score a few sellouts last year, but at least some of them were attached to gimmicks (example: the Chivas USA sellout coincided with a large youth soccer tournament underway that same weekend).
Attendance has been an embarrassment for the Rapids this year. True, the weather hasn't cooperated. But even on nice days against compelling opponents like the time defending MLS champions Sporting Kansas City came to town in March yielded a scant Rapids crowd. SKC, on the other hand, had nearly 1,000 followers in tow.
The poor performance at the ticket turnstiles isn't solely Hinchey's fault. Dick's Sporting Goods Park wasn't the best location for a new stadium, and the lack of development in the surrounding environs haven't helped. And the Rapids struggle to compete against the noise of other Colorado professional and college sports teams.
But if there's a man to get the attendance issue resolved, it's more than likely the type of coup Hinchey could pull off. At the very least, he seems committed to the Rapids, a tie to the franchise that has been absent at times throughout its 18-year history.