Held at Lifted Spirts Distillery in Kanas City and hosted by Cauldron leadership, Thursday’s Town Hall meeting with Sporting Kansas City President Jake Reid began with drinks and socializing in the lower level before moving up to the larger event space upstairs.
The occasion was prompted by increasing concerns heard from Cauldron leadership who then contacted an eager and open Reid. The open forum had its moments of passionate grievances and the sole Reid joked that things got more intense after the halfway drink break. All in all, the event was a good way to give Reid and Sporting Kansas City insight to how fans feel and get some teasers for coming plans and promises to look into other concerns from Reid.
A more-or-less chronological and informal look at the biggest fan concerns on the night and Reid’s responses:
Approximately a half of away television broadcasts are being done from Kansas City – Sporting KC trialed this last year. Most national broadcasts do this now as well. Sporting works with the Liberty-based Niles Media Group who does most of NCAA basketball. Doing the broadcasts remotely saves money, which has been reinvested into marketing efforts. Ratings don’t change.
Season Ticket Member value was a big topic – A Season Ticket Member since new stadium then spoke up about not renewing his Season Ticket Membership and his Cauldron membership. His concerns were that he felt it unfair that ticket prices went up the same rate across the board – “So the banker at midfield got a lesser percent increase than the restaurant worker in The Cauldron.” He also pointed that tickets in The Cauldron, the Supporter’s Section (which extends to the South Stand as well), are the 4th highest in MLS (at $28 for 2018) and cited the minimal 5% discount that STMs get on merchandise. Later, a fan stated appreciation for the exclusive STM meet and greet with the full team coming up at Children’s Mercy Park after the September 30 match against Real Salt Lake, saying it should happen every year.
Response from SKC President Jake Reid – Made season tickets include 17 regular season matches plus free Open Cup (and CCL matches in 2019) up until final because of feedback. No one wanted meaningless friendlies, prefer competitive matches that mean something. Reid likes because of 12-15,000 fans in stands instead of paltry attendance in other cities. Helps team.
Cauldron Representative Sean Davis made point that the club spends $75,000 a year to pay for away tickets for STMs. But also brought up the fading perks - $2 beers in Member’s Club, the delivery/presentation of season tickets that have led to discontent.
Reid – Reid revealed that this is the first year they have heard pushback in value and that they pay much attention to feedback. He then pointed out that Children’s Mercy Park is the only MLS stadium, besides LAFC, with a stand-alone members’ space. He agreed that the 5% discount is too low, and said they are evaluating a loyalty program that would add significant value for STMs and were evaluating blowing up the entire season ticket value package to redo what it looks like as it hasn’t changed for seven years. “If we aren’t doing our job to ensure that as a season-ticket member that you have a better value than anyone else out there; then we have screwed something up.” Reid also stated that STMs will see some sort of tiered structure for being a STM for so many years next year and that fans will not see a big price jump in 2020.
Lastly, a fan expressed desire for more little things, more thank-yous from the club.
Reid – Agreeing about the little things, Reid admitted embarrassment, “The season ticket mailing last year was an utter disaster. Complete screw-up on our part. There is no excuse for it, and that will never happen again.”
Pay-to-play and inner-city player access and outreach – A fan expressed dismay that inner-city kids can’t afford to be a part of the Sporting Club Network, asking what is being done to disrupt the pay-to-play system.
Reid – Sporting Kansas City partners with existing clubs. The goal is to enhance technical training for those clubs so they play SKC’s style, philosophy, and system, so when players are ready to become a part of the academy, they have an advantage. Sporting KC is not making money off youth soccer. Reid also hinted that MLS has some things planned that will probably be launched next year regarding a youth structure that will not be pay-to-play. Reid also stated that SKC has built 26 futsal courts in the inner city.
Swope Park Rangers – Fans cited a lack of atmosphere at Children’s Mercy Park for SPR matches, saying it was like the old KC Wizards’ Arrowhead days. Additionally, fans were frustrated with a lack of marketing of SPR games and low attendance.
Reid – Regarding the stadium issues (having to leave Swope Park) “It’s a US Soccer regulation. Now that we are Division II league, officially, the mandated stadium seating requirement is 5,000 seats. We trialed Shawnee Mission High School because they have 5,000. We got full approval, everything for USL. And the official in the first game said the field was too short, which three other fields in the league are the same size. And we were told we can’t have football lines, which two other teams have football lines. So we had to switch to the stadium.” Reid agreed about the environment at CMP, and said they are evaluating Swope to expand to 5,000. However, it gets tricky because city requires parking and rest rooms and infrastructure and a bunch of other stuff for 5,000 seats. “A huge frustration of ours,” he closed while reminding STMs that they have free admittance to SPR matches.
Safe standing in supporter’s section – A fan was stated that other teams have it, we don’t. Why not?
Reid – “There is no reason we couldn’t explore it. We just haven’t heard feedback on wanting it. We are not opposed to it.”
More local products available at stadium in line with the “For Glory. For City.” slogan –
Reid – Before pointing out that KC Bier Company products are available at the stadium, Reid responded, “That is definitely our focus. But at some point [local companies] have to cooperate with that… We are not out there shopping for the highest bidder, but at some point the numbers are the numbers. I tried very hard to negotiate [with Boulevard Brewing Company]. We make a big effort [to work with local companies] from food sourcing to booze to name your commodity. At some point, if they are not interested in partnering with us, and we have somebody else who is, … it takes two to tango.”