Can Baltimore Support Outdoor Soccer?

Discussion in 'Baltimore' started by jakcfl, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. jakcfl

    jakcfl New Member

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    With all the on and off field travails that Crystal Palace Baltimore has suffered, I think an important question has been overlooked. Can and will Baltimore support professional outdoor soccer? With the seemingly never-ending feasibility study for a soccer stadium still lacking a conclusion (10K, 20K, nothing) perhaps we should all reflect a bit on if Baltimoreans really have enough interest in soccer as a spectator sport to field a pro side. Of the people I know in real life and in social media circles I have never been able to have more then a few people accompany me to games. These are people with no previous knowledge of Crystal Palace Baltimore. All of these people are self-described sports fans though, usually devoted mostly to the Ravens but harboring a secret longing to see the Orioles return to prominence.

    The Baltimore area has had a professional outdoor soccer presence in the mordern era, but never for more then five consecutive seasons per franchise. The original Bays lasted 3 years, the ASL Bays 2 years, the last incarnation of the Bays lasted five years in USISL/USL. The Baltimore Comets lasted two seasons. Crystal Palace Baltimore is now in season four. This lack of longevitity begs the question, are there enough paying soccer spectators in the region to support a team at any level?

    People mention youth leagues as a measuring stick of how many potential soccer fans there are but children usually don't have the means to buy tickets or transport themselves to games without adult assistance. The Baltimore Blast have found a way to be profitable by catering to groups, especially youth groups, to fill their seats. Many soccer fans don't want that type of atmosphere however.

    The two international club friendlies held in Baltimore have also been mentioned as a gauge for interest in the area. However, those matches should be viewed more as regional events then just local ones. Without ticketmaster's help in divulging the zipcode/area code of the ticket buyers it is difficult to ascertain how many people live close enough to Baltimore to attend a regularly scheduled set of league matches for a pro soccer team. Also, even if we were to obtain an MLS franchise, the level of play presented by the touring European teams is seen as a higher level of play. In the US we traditionally have the luxury of having most of the world's best players in our domestic leagues. Not so in soccer. If you offer the soccer going public a lesser version of the game then what they saw in the aforementioned exhibitions would they still come and pay to do so?

    So, pardoning the simplicity of my comments for space and time limitations, does anyone have any thoughts on the subject?


  2. Mikey mouse

    Mikey mouse Member

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    In my opinion, yes it can.

    Granted Im not overly familiar with Baltimore, but I feel the soccer can work, if done properly.

    I feel it can work in just about any market but it has to be done right and the owners have to be committed, have reasonable goals, and connect with the community.

    I know a lot of people talk about certain cities being "major league towns" But if soccer can make it in places like Charleston, Des Monies, Chatannooga, there should be the market in larger cities too.

    Obviously there is no magic formula for marketing a team but I feel it comes from a combo of unique marketing, presenting a professional product and making the match an enjoyable experience, and not just marketing to one type of fan, but reach out to all of them.

    just my two cents.
  3. jakcfl

    jakcfl New Member

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    I know it isn't a fool-proof barometer for gauging the soccer situation in Baltimore, but the lack of responses to the thread question from those that normally post on Palace matters probably underscores my concerns about Baltimore's suitability as a pro outdoor soccer market.

    For any efforts in the future, including a continuation of Palace Baltimore, a greater visibility in the community should be attempted. Banners with schedules should hang in every indoor soccer center in the metro area. Bars that show sat. and sun. premier league matches should be supplied with coasters with the team logo and web site on them to be utilized during the aforementioned telecasts. A banner, and possibly a staffer or two, should be at every adult/youth soccer tourney in the area. Even going so far as to sponsor a team in several higher profile rec leagues might be an option as it would keep the name and web site in the minds of players and parents. Educational nights, modeled on the ones that baseball uses to get school trips to parks are also an option. Be a part of as many community festivals as feasible. Having a permanent home is a must, and if the team controls the site so much the better. Avoid the "minor league" title as much as possible. I know some who hope that MLS will take over the D-2 level and make an MLS 2 are fond of the idea of making it clear that the next level down is minor league. i just don't agree with that. Yes, it would be the next level down, but successful operations in other minor league sports don't go around touting how they are second best to other teams. They generate their own identites even if they receive players and funding from a parent club. No one wants to purchase a product or support a business that tells everyone it is second best. Its like looking for a doctor who isn't all that cocky. It might help with some of the interchange with patients, but it doesn't do anything to help his or her decision-making skills. The main thing is be visible, be consistent, follow-through on your promises and be nice to everyone, even if you have nothing to gain from them. At some point in the future they'll remember the courtesy. I'm just throwing out stuff hoping to foster ideas, so take it for what its worth. Last home match today. I'll be there with the folks I've been able to round-up for this match and hopefully we'll end our home campaign in style.
  4. teucer

    teucer Member

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    If (as is looking likely) there's no team next year, I'm gonna miss having an opponent I can go on road trips to without a hotel stay.


  5. jakcfl

    jakcfl New Member

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    It's unfortunate the situation we find ourselves in here in Baltimore. I do believe things could work but I don't expect a team next year. The hard part of this whole mess with USSF, NASL, and USL is that if some sort of coalition could be struck to set-up regional leagues that would include all present pro teams operating beneath the MLS level many of the new D-2 guidelines wouldn't really be needed. Cost certainty, not difficult to acheive financial goals, are what can bring consistency year-to-year in the lower levels of soccer in the US. What teams require are real regional rivalries that the fans can participate in, not far-flung franchises whose larger city names may look good on a standings sheet. I enjoyed the trips I took this year to Cary, NC, Montreal, Rochester, and at the end of this week, Tampa. However, being able to take a larger contingent of away fans to Harrisburg, Richmond or Rockville, MD to face Real Maryland, or in your case Charlotte, Wilmington and Richmond, is something that allows spectators to gain a greater sense of ownership of their particular team, home and away. Hopefully outdoor professional soccer in Baltimore will live on to fight another day and in that coming day all teams, and leagues, will be united under one common goal of forging stronger leagues and a more promising future for soccer in this country not just for the bank accounts of those who control the leagues.
  6. teucer

    teucer Member

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    Exactly. I like having my team play at the highest level this market can support (and let's face it, between the Hurricanes and the various college rivalries the Triangle isn't likely to get an MLS team any time soon!) but I also love being able to travel to Charleston (for a preseason friendly) or Baltimore to watch away games. Those two are right at the edge of what I can do without a night in a hotel, when the games have earlier kickoffs like that last one; a lot more of us could do a lot more of those trips if we were playing in a regional league.

    I'm not sure I'm gonna say I wish the RailHawks would drop down to USL-PRO, because I really do also like what we've got right now, but, well, I wish it were on the table. And I think Baltimore's a perfect candidate for it, and it's a damn shame you guys look to be this year's Cleveland City Stars.
  7. Sherman_Peabody

    Sherman_Peabody New Member

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    I think the answer is an emphatic Yes! I may be an eternal optimist, but I believe Baltimore is capable of just about anything it sets its mind to. Seriously, there is a lot of community and entrepreneurial spirit in Baltimore. I believe that with appropriate marketing, it could be harnessed to support a pro outdoor soccer team.

    The team needs to have the proper facilities -- a soccer-specific stadium convenient to "downtown" Baltimore (or at least convenient to the Baltimore county population center).

    The team needs to be marketed aggressively -- that means building brand awareness and creating demand. It also means marketing to the people who would prefer to watch something besides the Orioles in the summer, as well as to the Oriole fans who're looking for something else to do. The marketing needs to inclusive, because the team can't afford to "leave fans at the gate".

    The team needs to be locally branded. Whatever the brand turns out to be, it needs to reflect a strong connection to the cultural life of the city. The exact nature of that connection is not that important. Its strength is the key.

    Most importantly, the owners need to demonstrate professionalism and staying power. I've found Baltimoreans don't suffer incompetence for long, and they don't have much sympathy for quitters.
  8. brentgoulet

    brentgoulet Member

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    Seems like CPB will not be coming back next year, what a shame
  9. Lu Grego

    Lu Grego New Member

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    Says who?
  10. Maza1987

    Maza1987 Member

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    some guy on another forum section said a player told him.
  11. CFL-fan

    CFL-fan Member

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  12. BillyMay23here

    BillyMay23here New Member

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    Is anyone really surprised that this is coming to an end? They ran this organization into the ground over 3 years. Pete and Jim burnt every bridge in both leagues as well as those their sponsors, fans and players reached out with.
    They didn't realize that they were awful coaches and they ran the team like a pair of amateurs (which they were as players and were as coaches). It was only a matter of time before they had to fold. It is what it always was; a talented team with awful, clueless coaching and owners that were clueless when it came to the business of soccer. In the long run for baltimore soccer to work it is better that these two monkeys take their circus tents down and fold up shop.
  13. brentgoulet

    brentgoulet Member

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    Due to these 2 clowns PRO soccer might become a bad word in Baltimore
  14. jakcfl

    jakcfl New Member

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    Despite the negative feelings that many may have for the way CP Baltimore was run, what I'm really looking for here are ideas to make future attempts at outdoor pro soccer in the Baltimore area successful. Does the team have to play in the city or would Baltimore County be fine? Can they play at someone else's facility (college, high school) or is it essential to have their own home? In what part of town (north, south, etc.) would the eatm be most successful/accessible? Would it be beneficial to have other large cities to play against in a national league or should we look to a league where we have closer geographic rivals even if they aren't major markets? Should the team look to foster an atmosphere that caters more to young adults, families, or a mix of both? How important is it to have an academy system and by what year in a team's development should they have a functional one? Would it be a potential off-shoot of an academy set-up to establish futsal leagues in high school gymnasiums throughout the city to help keep kids off the streets and perhaps open up avenues for soccer development with formerly untapped athletes? I'm sure there are lots of other potential topics out there that could be covered as well. I guess a final starting point question from me would be is there enough interest to start a supporters group that supports soccer in the area in general, the Blast, local colleges, bar-based pro match viewing parties in lieu of a pro outdoor team. Let's hear some ideas and make this thing productive!
  15. brentgoulet

    brentgoulet Member

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    All good points you bring up

    Personally I think that regional D3 soccer would be a better fit than national NASL soccer

    CPB had better crowds last season in USL2 than this season in USSF Div2
  16. ewheatley

    ewheatley Member

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    Exactly. Everything I think that CPB has done wrong over the years. I have only been to a handful of CPB games and have been disappointed each time.
  17. Sherman_Peabody

    Sherman_Peabody New Member

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    Let me take up JackFL's questions directly. I think the prescription for a successful men's outdoor pro soccer team in Baltimore is as follows:

    An owner's group with lots of cash
    The team will not be financially successful for several seasons, and expenses are likely to mount rapidly. The owners must be willing to see the venture through until the marketing campaign takes hold.​
    A soccer-specific venue that the team controls
    Building fan loyalty requires a home venue fans can identify with. Fans must be able to associate the home venue with the team's brand. Leased venues do not allow that association. It does not matter where the stadium is located -- it should be convenient to Baltimore's population center -- but there are a number of locations that are close enough. The main things are that the venue be fan-friendly, high-quality, and associated directly with the team.​
    An aggressive, inclusive brand-building marketing campaign
    Pro outdoor soccer is not a well establish sport in Baltimore, so people are not necessarily going to be looking for a team. The marketing campaign must build brand awareness; get the team's name, venue and schedule out in front of people. Also, give them some (non-soccer) reason to come see the games. The idea is to create and then expand the fan base.​
    A cultural connection to the city
    This last point is perhaps the most important. The team's brand should have a cultural connection to Baltimore. Local fans will identify and adopt an existing cultural icon more quickly than one manufactured for a sports team. Orioles -- a bird found throughout Maryland; Colts -- tied into the Preakness and horse racing tradition; Ravens -- ties into the connection between Baltimore and Edgar Allen Powe. The pro soccer team should brand itself with a similar construct already part of the city's culture. Even one that has been used before would work -- just not one that has a serious negative image -- I wouldn't reuse Colts. Personally, I like Baltimore Clippers, but that's just me.​
  18. eastcoaster

    eastcoaster New Member

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    The problem with how to have pro soccer is that because of how poor things have been with CP - it may truely be hard to get sponsors, stadiums, etcetcetc since those people will be real cautious. I think we all know that those guys haven't paid players and staff - that will be a real hurdle for anyone else. With all the hype those guys put into things it may just have potential backers thinking it can't be done.
    Personally know some of the guys who have not been paid and were made to vacate their apartments before they were supposed to has certainly soured me on "minor league" soccer. I guess point is that it may take a while for all the damage they have done to clear before someone else can go in. Other then the youth academy that was supposed to be very good, there is nothing positive from our memories of pro soccer under CP.- I am sure this is the same feeling that area businesses would have when approached in the near future to support pro soccer.
  19. The Irish Rover

    The Irish Rover Member

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    how would rebranding the Baltimore Blast as an outdoor team work? (assume the indoor team is shut down)
  20. eastcoaster

    eastcoaster New Member

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    Actually not a bad idea if the Blast wanted to do so...
  21. jakcfl

    jakcfl New Member

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    It's true. Would give the instant recognition that a start-up could use. Of course if Hale could build a new arena AND a stadium it would be a cindrella story for all of us. There was some talk of him looking towards Dundalk now to build an arena. a lot is still gonna depend on what happens with the feasibility study for a soccer stadium. now if they would put a new arena and stadium in westport that would be good too.
  22. andypalmer

    andypalmer Member

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    There are plenty of soccer fans in the Baltimore metro, they key is having a well located stadium (that doesn't have football lines) and a decent product on the field. If I can catch a better game at UMBC or Towson, the pro soccer team is not going to last.

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