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The ‘Meet the Team Party’ – A Missed Opportunity?

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Why an open day at the beginning of the season would be a better event for the club to hold.

Fans get autographs at the 2015 'Meet the Team Party'.
Fans get autographs at the 2015 'Meet the Team Party'.

Last Saturday afternoon, many of us were at DSG Park watching the Colorado Rapids tie 1-1 against DC United. Sunday afternoon saw the 2nd Rapids event of the weekend, which was the annual ‘Meet the Team Party’ held at Elitch Gardens, right by downtown Denver. The event is a much trumped perk of being a season ticket holder (sorry ‘member’) & tickets, which this year included admission to the amusement park, had to be reserved on the basis of one person per season ticket held.

Over the past few years the Rapids have held this event at the stadium, Toby Keith’s Bar & Grill in Northfield, Stapleton, the Lucky Strike Lanes in Denver Pavilions & a selection of other sports bars. Up until 2010, it was tied in with a viewing party such as the MLS All-Star game or Cup Final & appears to have always been a 2nd half of the season event. A few years ago, a front office staffer told me that the reason behind this was that season ticket renewals were launching around this time & this was thought of as a good way to encourage people to renew.

The problem here is that when the team has a bad season, it’s hard to get excited about going to an event which revolves around meeting a group of men who are as disappointed as you are. What do you say to likes of Gabby Torres, who is supposed to be finding the net regularly & propelling us to the play-off spots? How do you make polite small talk with Dillon Powers when you both want to run over & plead with Pablo to put him in the team more often? And what on earth do you say to Nick Labrocca?

The most loyal & diehard season ticket members have already made up their mind whether to renew or not for next year & I doubt they will make their decision on the strength of a couple of nice words with Clint Irwin. This year, the league has made clubs start the renewals in earnest in August, & the Rapids responded by duly rolling out a ‘20 prizes in 20 days’ campaign to get things going which means that the season ticket holder’s party no longer serves a big purpose in this push. I’m also astonished that the front office still thinks it’s a good idea to schedule Rapids events (& that includes home games!) while the Broncos are playing at home. A large percentage of Rapids season ticket members are Broncos fans & if they were not actually at Sports Authority Field on Sunday, they would most likely have wanted to be at a bar or someone’s house for the first day of the NFL season proper. I’m sure the Rapids got a killer deal from Elitch (which is now owned in part by Kroenke) who must have been amazed that someone wanted to hold a non-Broncos event there on Sunday.

The ‘Meet the Team Party’ could serve a much greater purpose if it was held just before the season starts. First off, the fanbase are in their most optimistic frame of mind at that time as any problems with the previous season are put to the back of their minds & hope abounds for what the team will achieve in the new season. There are also new signings from off-season trades & the drafts to introduce. An opportunity to meet the players at that time of year is a much more attractive proposition to fans.

Secondly, by February / March, the club is fully prepared for the new season with individual game tickets on sale & the team store stocked with the latest merchandize. The party, if held at the stadium, could be an opportunity for fans to pick up their season tickets if they haven’t already received them, purchase any extra tickets & get the latest jersey, personalized with your favorite player. The idea is that by taking care of any issues at an event prior to the home opener, as many fans as possible are ready to go when the day of the big kick-off finally arrives.

The stadium could also provide an opportunity for fans to take a look round the workings of their, local professional soccer club as an ‘open day’ of sorts. The locker rooms & associated ‘back of house’ areas in the building behind the north end terrace should be made available as a unique opportunity to see what goes on in there. Likewise the facilities in the west stand should be showcased & the club has a marketing opportunity to drum up some business for its suites & the Summit Club. At a similar event at Crystal Palace in the UK a few years ago, I remember much cheering & laughter around the stadium as a young fan visiting the Selhurst Park control room was allowed to put ‘Crystal Palace 99 Manchester United 0’ up on the scoreboard!

An event where you can meet the players, square away any arrangements for the new season, see parts of the stadium that are usually off-limits & partake in a whole host of soccer activities on the field suddenly becomes a lot more attractive to fans at a time of year when they are naturally excited for the upcoming games. It’s more likely to offer something for everyone, meaning that attendance would be higher which can only be a good thing for building support for the Rapids. It also does not make sense that the club, which has only a few thousand season ticket members, should restrict what could be a key opportunity to engage with potential new fans to just the support it already has. An open day, open to all, would be a much better use of the time & resources used to organize the current ‘Meet the Team Party’. If any of the front office staff are reading this, I hope that they will give it some serious consideration.