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Building the Rapids Experience Part 2: Pregame

What could be done to improve the pregame experience?

Los Angeles Galaxy v Colorado Rapids Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Can the Rapids pregame be as compelling as the game experience itself?

Things Going Right

There are pieces of pregame that are done well already:

  • Players not active for the game (recovering from injury, etc.) visiting the C38 Tailgate is super smart. It builds community and doesn’t cost much of anything.
  • The parking lot is open early and easy to set up a tailgate. At some stadiums the parking area is more restrictive. Particularly in the eastern lot at DSGP we’ve always been free to set up a BBQ and a shelter however we see fit.

Building on those positives, here are three ideas for increasing pregame community engagement:

Food is Happiness

Inside the stadium we have Aramark and are probably stuck with it forever. Yuck.

But, in the parking lot, there are likely few (if any) restrictions.

Have you ever seen the crowds of hundreds of people gather for Civic Center Eats? There are over 200 local food trucks listed on Roaming Hunger. If you can pull five of them consistently then you have enough for critical mass. More will want to join. Then you can do things like a “BBQ Throwdown” one week, “Taco Fiesta,” and so on. If recruited and permitted, there are surely a handful of food trucks who’d like to be regular attendees.

The Game Before the Game

It’s really great how the organization is working to support Special Olympics Colorado with the Unified Team. Honestly, there’s a near zero percent chance I’m going to hang out after the game to watch. Put it before the Rapids game and we’d be there more often than not. Putting them first seems so obvious that I suspect there’s a limitation I’m missing. Even field wear and tear seems like an unlikely reason since there’s no problem with a hundred rugrats playing at halftime.

Beyond the Unified Team, what about inviting some other local teams to play? Surely there are some high school or middle school teams who could be featured? If they played a “compressed match” of 45 minutes about an hour and a half before kickoff, you could have them off the pitch before MLS warmups. If you have about 30 kids participating it’s plausible that their network brings 100+ additional fans to that game, too.

Breaking Down the Tape

A good chunk of the US soccer audience grew up playing the game, but few people have played at a high level. Some of my favorite journalism around MLS is our own Backpass series or tactical breakdowns like this from the Sounders. An educated fan base is an engaged fan base.

What if this analysis was done live? I’m not sure how it happens physically, maybe within the stadium or in the parking lot. Imagine a “film session” with people like Jordan Angeli or Marcelo Balboa focused on the opponent. Hypothetically we know about the Rapids, but what do we really know about NYCFC? How are they likely to lineup? What are their strengths? Will they die having to play in Colorado instead of their postage-stamp-sized field?

Yes, you could set this up really professionally almost like ESPN’s College Gameday. But even just a few mirrored TVs and a mic/speaker setup would be super neat. I’d be there every game.

Grab Bag

Here are few bonus ideas that can pull more people to the park pregame:

  • The practice fields are a huge asset. What about some small “clinics” out there? Breakout by age group and drill kids/adults on one piece of the game per week (ex: corner kicks).
  • It’s not for me, but what about pre-game yoga? This is Colorado after all.
  • Bring the gear sales outside the park. The last thing I want to do is cram into that tiny, packed merch store. Bring at least the “Merch of the Match” and a few other staples outside and sell them from tables where I just can’t resist.
  • The music guests I’ve seen at 4th of July games have been painful. Surely there are some high school marching bands that would be up for a little parking lot performance and “leading” people into the stadium at game time?

Going to the park can be about a lot more than seeing the game. Start putting together some small pieces like this and we build a rich experience.