This past Thursday the Revolution hosted its 3rd Annual Supporter Summit. Members of the Midnight Riders and The Rebellion were invited ti ask questions of both Brian Bilello and Mike Burns. Over the course of a few posts we will present selected in depth quotes on a number of subjects as well as some of our own editorial notes in italics where warranted
Bilello on "exciting" players
"From this off season, if your looking at saying 'well I'll come back if there's players that come that create a buzz for me'. Then yes I wouldn't argue that we haven't [brought in buzz players]... Michael and Jay's directive were to go get guys that are going to help us win, not necessarily go get guys who are going to create a buzz. When you're the last place team in the league, I think it's hard to say go get a guy that's good and has buzz, it's put together the best team you can.
I would tell you right now our biggest issue is the product on the field. Maybe we'll get this team to be a playoff team and were fighting to make it to MLS Cup, or in MLS Cup, then we can probably get that buzz, but from a priority standpoint with players right now, the priority is getting a team that can win games. If we can do both great. We have looked in the past at a high profile designated player, we were looking at that this off season too, it didn't come to fruition. We're gong to continue to look down that path, but at the same time in parallel we're looking at guys that can help us win games."
Another season of we were almost close to this one guy but it didn't work out... I also question the reasoning on buzz vs. good. Isn't a player generally only able to create buzz if they are good? We can have our cake and eat it too here folks.
Burns on "exciting" players
"I think it's a little tricky, not to defend or position or anything like that, just to be honest with you guys. Unless it's a returning US National team player or a Beckham, or Henry, or Robbie Keane, I guess I'd ask how many guys has any team signed in the league this off season that has been the wow factor that you talked about? And that's not to say we can't do it, but I would say if you look across the league a lot of the international signings aren't those guys that you're referring to. And frankly there haven't been; Who's been returning US national team layers? And if they do come back, we'll get in line."
Portland signed the all time leading goal scorer from the Scottish Premier League... these are the kind of folks we're talking about... so yes other teams have and it's possible. We're not asking for household names, but people that the knowledgeable soccer fans will get excited about... You know the Euro-snobs that don't watch MLS, get players that excite them and they may become a local household names.
Bilello On Field Turf's effect on acquiring players
"The field we have, we've been pretty aggressive since day one on putting the best soccer surface we could find out there. The first field we put in was the best one we could find for soccer, it's the same one Seattle had up until this year, we replaced it because we didn't like the performance and actually that came from feedback from the soccer team not the football team. The football team really didn't care because it's the same for them either way. The new surface we have is the latest generation that they had at the time. I think it's held up quite well, it's the same surface they put in Vancouver, it's the same surface they put in Portland. From the soccer standpoint we have the best surface we could find for the sport."
Burns on Field Turf
"Generally speaking it's a more common question asked by our foreign players, that we're talking about signing and then eventually sign. What I can tell you in addition to that is that we've never had an international or national player for that matter that has decided not to sign because of Field Turf. We've never lost a player because we lay on turf."
Bilello on a stadium
"It's something that we're continually working on. We've got a project that we're working on right now. We've got some people, basically we're spending money on it, they're doing some work for us on it. We're hopeful to have some answers on that project I'd say in the next 2-3 months or maybe sooner just to know where we stand with that particular project. Unfortunately it's not a site or a community that I can share with you right now but we're in a pretty aggressive place right now. We're looking at something and we're optimistic that this could be the one but it's a big hurdle for us in this region. It's something we're still committed to, we're still aggressively going after we're still spending a lot of money on researching things.
I'll believe it when I see it, however it does sound like they are much closer than they have been in recent years. We have a new time frame to hold them accountable to.
Bilello on Season tickets
"Right now we're trending to be; our renewals are about 5 points off where we were last year. Last year we were in the mid 80's this year we're trending to be more in the high 70's. On new sales we're probably off about 15-20% versus last years. Right now we're probably trending to be down a few hundred season tickets. We're going to continue to push, we're going to keep trying to do things. I think from where we are with those things a lot has to do with whats gone on on the field or hasn't gone on on the field. Sometimes you have a lot to make up with that, I think our staff does a really good job with our season ticket holders, convincing them to come back, and one more year. I think to a degree until we get better on the field I don't think we're going to see anything change. From a season ticket standpoint I think we're gonna be off a little bit from where we were last year, which was a good year for us over the last few. If we do what we're hoping to accomplish on the field we'll see a rebound back on that.
Multi-games, Ticketmaster, walk-up, that kind of stuff, is more within the season, so if we play well, are doing well, we'll see some pretty good numbers. It was a record year for multi game packs last year for us, we're hoping to repeat that, grow that. We had an up year fro Ticketmaster last year, so we're working to continue that an d be pretty aggresive with some of our programs form Ticketmaster. Walk-up frankly we had bad weather at the beginning of the year and frankly a lack of interest at the end of the year. One we hope it's better at the beginning of the year, but the other one with what we accomplish on the field we hope we have more interest there. I think with season tickets unfortunately, people who came are not happy, they didn't like what they see and don't feel like this is what they want to support. I think it's going to be hard for those folks until we show them we're a better team, so that's where our focus is."
Bilello On non-supporters in the Fort (i.e. cheapest ticket seekers, people who sit)
"We can try, it's just really hard to sort people when it comes down to it. We're out there with the ticket packages, we're trying to get as many people we can in that section. We're trying to launch a college season ticket, as well that we wouldn't necessarily put in the fort but adjacent to it so hopefully that grows to a big number this year.I priority in the fort is it's a standing room section for people who want to stand, for people who want to cheer, play drums, sing songs. If we get a fan complaint about someone banging a drum in my ear, we're going to invite that person to move someplace else in the stadium and not the other way around. We don't encourage people to sit in the fort when people buy seats at walk up, we try to tell them what the atmosphere is like, it's not any cheaper than Cat 3 for the walk up. It's only cheaper on a season ticket not on the day of game. That's frankly conscious that we don't make it the cheapest set in the building, so that we don't have people saying well I want to sit in the cheapest seat so I'm going to be in the fort. The Cat 3 price is the same for walk up, so we really try not to get those folks in there. We took priority with security with you guys to say if you don't like that then move somewhere else."
Ok so the Fort isn't any cheaper than Cat 3 for walk up... but Cat 3 is in fact the cheapest seat in the stadium. Also I don't want anything to do with a college season ticket being close to or in the Fort. Historically one of the nights with the biggest issues in the Fort is the annual college and high school nights. They may not be sold ticket there but they always gravitate towards it and there have always been problems.
Bilello on rebranding
We've talked about it, for me today, it's something we're looking at more with a stadium move, that we would do in conjunction with that. It's not just a badge and a logo, maybe we're not New England anymore, maybe we are Boston. Since that's not locked in I think there is a lot of variables that we're thinking about, but we are absolutely thinking about that...
I think for the time being we're not likely to change, but if we do something with the stadium we're going to look at that in conjunction with that stadium.