Make your way through the crowded streets of downtown Orlando, as you head to Exploria Stadium on a regular-season match day. The flood gates of people will have you feeling like the 25,000 possible ticket holders are all right there. The empty seats tell another story, as fewer bodies have been in attendance as the season has progressed.
Following any Orlando City home game, you get the email typically along these lines:
“Thank you for attending the match and bringing the noise! Do you have feedback? We are committed to improving your experience at Orlando City Stadium. If you would like to provide feedback, please fill out the survey below and you will be rewarded with 50 LionNation points and the chance at a complimentary upgrade to Premium Seats!”
I’m a survey person, but I don’t just do them for the chance of promised upgrades or prizes. I present a lot in my profession and I rely on feedback to better hone my skills to meet the needs of attendees. So, for two seasons now, after every match, I fill out the survey and make it clear that the stadium is overcharging for admission and concessions. A full stadium is a fun stadium and tells the players we support them. When you price the experience out of the range of the population in which the team is playing, despite their record, you’re going to have empty seats.
When you travel to Atlanta (and you know I hate the stadium), prices are vastly different. A family can head to the game and eat there. With their “Fan First Menu Pricing,” You’ll find the following:
- Hot Dog: $1.50
- Pretzel Bites: $4.50
- ATL Bud Burger: $7.50
- Ice Cream Waffle Cone: $4.50
- Chips and Salsa: $2.50
Those prices feel like the front office wants the fans there and wants to thank them for their loyal support.
The Orlando City Soccer Club front office says, “We’ve heard you!”
The club opened a limited number of inexpensive seats (with a discount to season ticket members) and dropped concession prices to bring in fans mid-week, for an unscheduled cup match. Prices weren’t as low as Mercedes Benz Stadium’s, but lowered is a start. Almost as soon as they announced the event and pricing, it seemed the club was announcing more sections were opening so even more fans could purchase seats to support the men in purple. People want to come to the matches, they want to support the club and buy concessions, because it’s all part of the experience.
According to the U.S. Census, in the same zip code in which Exploria Stadium stands, the average household income for residents is just over $25,000. Re-read that: the household income, not individual income. Search beyond the 32805 zip code and sure, you’ll see salaries start to increase, but only in small pockets do you see the household income over $60,000 in Central Florida. The club has a foundation that aims solely at working to bring soccer, vegetable gardens, and healthy eating habits to children around the city because they know Central Florida is a high-need area. They do a great job of bringing soccer to the community, but the work to bring the community to see our purple giants has room to grow.
The front office’s decision not to nickel and dime fans appeared to work not only for the overall fan experience, but for the team support as well. The announced attendance for a cup game, on a Wednesday night in a monsoon, while so many surrounding areas were under tornado warnings, was 5,556. Some fans will tell you it felt and sounded like so much more than that as the Lions took on the Revs for the 2-1 victory in extra time.
The question remains though, has the front office really heard our cries for affordable entertainment in the quest for soccer for all? Or have they rather made temporary adjustments to fill the sections of the stadium in range of cameras for last-minute Open Cup matches? I suppose the rest of this season and next season will tell. What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know in the comments.