For a very long time, the Colorado Rapids were a rather anonymous club and they had a front office to match. Old front offices resisted supporters' efforts, never made real splashes and seemed perfectly content just keeping a mid-table team around forever.
The latest iteration of the front office, dating back to Tim Hinchey taking over as President of the club and Jeff Plush getting ousted along with a couple of other names, has been one of the best, if not the best, front office in club history in terms of working to try and make the Rapids relevant on the national scene. They've done a lot of work, and the Rapids look set to be in fantastic shape for the future because of it.
After Gary Smith's contract wasn't picked up at the end of 2011, the Rapids looked like a lost team despite having won an MLS Cup only a year previous. They were a team with a lot of age, no depth, and half of a roster that looked unready to compete in Major League Soccer. They had no designated players, no jersey sponsors, and a fanbase that really wasn't excited and had been somewhat stagnant since the opening of Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
It's clear that Tim Hinchey and the rest of the gang were intent on changing all of that when they came in.
Fast forward two years later and nearly every single thing about the team has been brightened. They've hired two great young soccer minds now for their coaching staff -- though the first one obviously vacated us -- and built one of the best looking young rosters in the league. We've seen more work put into scouting for the MLS Draft, the place to be if you're a small-market club that can't splash millions on a player or convince MLS to buy one for you, and have done fantastic work in the academy, all the way up to convincing Stan Kroenke to fully fund it from within. Back in 2012, the Rapids got a pretty cool friendly against Swansea City, rather than going for a cash-grab against Manchester United or something. (As a result of that, we were the first people to see Michu play!) The Rapids have a Designated Player now and finally inked their first kit sponsor yesterday for a nice-looking $2 million a year for half of the next decade.
More than that, they have provided more fan outreach than I think we've ever seen. Once Centennial 38 became an official group, the Rapids gave them the sole rights to the tickets sold in the terraces and section 108. When Rapids fans said they wanted the team and stadium to have more of a Colorado feel to them, emulating the state pride that Coloradans love to show, they provided us with kickin' rad alternate kits fashioned like the Colorado flag and have made some changes to the stadium as well, like renaming the Cantina 'Eighteen76'. Little changes, perhaps, but the team is now unmistakably Colorado, and that's the way the fans like it.
Fans have taken notice, too. The team sold out a handful of games last season, including ones against less high-profile teams like Chivas USA, and finally managed to break the 5,000 season ticket mark this year according to Chris Bianchi. Considering the fact that they may have only had half that many despite lifting an MLS Cup four years prior tells you the amount of work that has had to be done.
We've seen the work they've done since the start of the 2012 season, and the biggest stone left standing in the wall of criticism was always the fact that they could never seem to close that deal for a kit sponsor. Ciao Telecom has finally signed on for that honor, and that Goliath is now down for the count. I say bravo (not Paul), and look forward to seeing how much more the team can grow both on the field and off in the next few years.