I am not a season ticket holder. I don't live in DFW any more, although when I did, I purchased a flex package, which was perfect for me and my first experience ever with any sort of ticket package to any sport. Overall, it was a very positive experience. Like other season ticket holders, it felt darn good to support an up and coming team with a bunch of young players and get really good value in terms of entertainment and atmosphere.
Last night, FC Dallas unveiled the first look at some big news that caused some curiosity, but also, a lot of turmoil among current and potential season ticket holders. Before going on, feel free to take a look at the site announcing the first round of changes to ticket plans, paid parking options, and more: FCDallas2016.com
The biggest changes:
- Many season ticket holders will experience a dramatic price increase for their packages for some sections, between 30-70% (in some cases). Only a few sections have been announced, so other cheaper packages may be available.
- More seats are being added to the beer garden, which has the potential to grow the crowd but also take away the general admission tickets for those who want to just hang out and enjoy the game without a seat. (As noted from one of our other contributors, beer garden season tickets now also cost 3 times that of season tickets in the supporters section of Bayern Munich in Bundesliga. Ouch.)
- More paid parking will be available, although free parking will remain in some lots, at least for the time being.
- The area where many supporters groups have tailgated for years will now likely be part of the paid parking section, potentially jeopardizing a fan tradition.
I'm attempting to summarize here, since information is still being released and the front office has encouraged fans to be patient and wait for more pieces of the puzzle to be shared.
Regardless, this information, released in combination with a big announcement about USWNT Olympic qualifier events coming to Frisco, has probably caused more confusion and questions than anticipated. For some who think their FC Dallas season ticket package is a great value, the price increases seem hefty and off putting. For those who have come to FCD through the supporter group community, the lack of communication and clarity with those vital groups of fans feels clumsy and dismissive. FCD staff has been working to address concerns, but a few vocal season ticket holders are expressing a reluctance to renew their packages for the coming season.
As an outsider to this conversation (wishing I had enough disposable income to fly frequently to Dallas for some soccer games), I have my own questions that likely mirror many fans' concerns right now.
1. What is your strategy here?
Yes, Dan Hunt, we know FC Dallas is a privately run business, and you can do whatever you want, even if it meant re-branding the team every few years for giggles or shooting oil gushers into the sky after every goal. Most fans would expect ticket price increases, paid parking, and other expenses to rise incrementally year by year. However, when you wait to do it in one fell swoop, lots of fans get a little nervous.
So, tell us, what is your strategy?
Why now when you are struggling to fill seats for marquee games?
Are these price increases part of an effort to raise more revenue to bring in that vital Designated Player, build the long awaited roof, increase marketing options, or upgrade beer options? Are these price increases part of a plan to build that future USL team to make FC Dallas even more competitive? Or are they just an opportunity to make the franchise more profitable for the Hunt clan? Fans would love some sort of insight here, and in the right circumstances, would probably even shut up if some of these changes meant big things were in store.
2. What is your relationship to supporters groups?
Most MLS franchises that have supported their loyal fan groups have been rewarded with great atmosphere, visibility, and positive energy, even in the midst of a losing season. Yeah, dedicated hardcore fans can be a pain in the ass too, very demanding and a wee bit entitled. But let's be real - they are likely one of the best and most authentic marketing channels for FC Dallas.
Most clubs have a staff person tasked to build relationships and communicate with supporter groups to make sure that rules were enforced, compromises were found, and energy was maintained. Someone in such a position could have helped craft the timing or tone of the message to season ticket holders and supporters groups to lower the amount of negativity. This person from FCD could have reached out to a couple of people and got some feedback about these changes coming down the pipeline.
Basically, these kinds of moves make us question - what kind of relationship does FC Dallas want with its SGs?
3. How is the value going to get better?
This really ties into question number one. I loved going to FC Dallas games because tickets were very affordable and parking was free. Concession stands and beer options weren't always great, but it was a nice option for the family and much better than blowing money on an NFL game (in my opinion). FC Dallas is in a big but tough market. Value at least seemed to create a helpful balance to some common gripes about the FCD experience.
What are things fans should expect with the price increases? Better halftime entertainment? More concession options? Better customer service? Upgraded audio and video? Basically, how will you answer that value question now? What makes FCD still a good value with more paid parking and higher ticket prices?
4. How long should fans wait for more info?
The front office is encouraging fans to wait for the full 32 piece puzzle to fall into place. But for how long? Until when? One thing about the announcement is the lack of clarity. The website has a few bits of info, but it's woefully thin in details and answers. Couldn't you have prepped a little FAQ to begin to answer concerns? Alternately, couldn't you have figured out a way to release more of the info at once?
At the very least, FC Dallas could do better by being up front with season ticket holders and supporter groups and offering them a solid time table on when their concerns will be addressed. Give a date.
Meanwhile, fans are left a little out in the cold. Why not offer some clarity in this uncertainty?
What questions would you ask of the front office?