Quinn is Blazing a Trail in DallasAn attendance miracle is happening in Texas and Doug Quinn’s fan-friendly approach is responsible
by Chris Enger | Monday, August 13, 2012
I do clearly as this was the first year I became a fan of soccer and MLS. It was also the year FC Dallas Stadium (formerly Pizza Hut Park) opened in Dallas … er … Frisco, Texas. It was the jewel of soccer specific stadiums in the United States! Well, at least until the following year when the next soccer specific stadium opened.
That year, FC Dallas’s average home attendance was 11,189, a jump of 2000 fans from the previous year. In 2006, that number jumped to 14,982 and again jumped to 15,154 in 2007.
A new stadium usually helps attendance, but the long time joke was how that number looked on television. Yeah, the reporting may show 14-15,000 tickets sold but the optics told a different story.
FC Dallas was facing some tough challenges most teams don’t face. It was a combination of a team that performed below expectations, a new stadium that was 40 minutes away from downtown Dallas and Texas heat.
In 2008, FC Dallas attendance dropped to 13,024 and hit bottom in 2009 with a 9,883 average home attendance. Not exactly the number you’re looking for after opening a new stadium.
Enter Doug Quinn in 2010.
Quinn became the CEO and president of FC Dallas in 2010 after being the president of MLS-owned Soccer United Marketing (SUM). In many circles that would be considered a small step back but not for Quinn. He viewed the opportunity to work with the Hunt family and run a team as the opportunity he wanted 6 years before actually getting the job.
As president of SUM, Douglas Quinn was responsible for the Adidas kit agreement as well as engineering the former SuperLiga tournament, both of which helped the league at the time the deals were created.
Quinn is a creative thinker, but would his talents turn around the struggling attendance situation presented in Dallas?
Thus far into his tenure the answer is yes.
In Frisco, Quinn is blazing new ground. He is trying to bolster attendance for a team that already has a soccer specific stadium. This is not like Kansas City and Real Salt Lake who moved into new stadiums and got large attendance boosts. It is not like what people think could happen to the New England Revolution and DC United if they moved out of their outdated gridiron areas. This is a team that already moved into a soccer specific stadium, but whose numbers dropped.
In 2010, when Quinn was asked how he was going to help coach Schellas Hyndman and the technical staff improve the team, his response gives a window on how he was able to make the turn around.
“To be clear, my job is to manage the business of the organization and to provide Coach
Schellas [Hyndman] and Barry [Gorman, FC Dallas technical director] whatever
resources they need to succeed inside the white lines – but my focus is outside
the white lines. If I do my job outside the white lines, they’ll have the
resources to do what they need to do inside…
“My job is to make sure our fans have the greatest soccer experience – authentic soccer
experience – in the stands. The horn-blowing, chanting, scarf-wearing, authentic soccer experience that they deserve.”
What Quinn has done is comparable to an attendance miracle. The attendance from 2010 (when Quinn took the job) was 10,815 which jumped in 2011 to 12,851. In 2012, Quinn has stated that season tickets orders jumped 40% and 3 of the top 10 most attended games in FC Dallas Stadium occurred this year.
Quinn’s goal from day one was to improve fan relations and improve on the fan experience. This year alone the team has spent over $1.5 million improving the game day experience. He’s enlarged the Budweiser Beer Garden, added in-seat drink services and the creme de la creme: Lamar’s Tailgate a “Texas-sized tailgate fueled by a 1,000 pound smoker.”
From having a fan VIP place a scarf around the statue of Lamar Hunt pregame to placing fans around the team as they enter the field, Quinn has made FC Dallas home matches a complete fan inspired soccer sensation, all because he listens to the fans.
Quinn doesn’t view MLS as a gift to the fans but vice versa, the fans are a gift to MLS and each team. The presidents of teams in the league that have the same viewpoint are easy to see, they are usually the teams with the highest attendance. Los Angeles, Seattle, Real Salt Lake, all have front offices very proactive in fan relationships, where teams like New England have seemed to fail in this area. But even New England, perhaps taking a page from Quinn’s book, the team now has more season ticket holder meetings and president Brian Biello has been a regular at the supporter’s groups pregame tailgates.
For now FC Dallas beats New England, and a few other teams as well, in attendance. And as FC Dallas continues to improve on and thrive with their fan relationship, look for those numbers to increase in the near future.
It cannot be expressed enough the amazing job Doug Quinn is doing at Dallas. His ideas and goals should be emulated league wide to help bring additional fans to matches and retain the season ticket holders already attending.