With MLS First Kick approaching this Sunday, FCDallas.com sat down with FC Dallas President and CEO Doug Quinn to discuss the state of the club.
FCDallas.com: How do you feel about the on-field product heading into 2012 MLS First Kick?
Doug Quinn: In terms of on-field comments, I’ll leave those to Schellas other than to say I am personally very excited we were able to retain the core of our team from 2011 including Daniel Hernandez, Ugo Ihemelu, Brek Shea, David Ferreira, Kevin Hartman, George John, Jair Benitez, Zach Loyd and Fabian Castillo. We were also able to sign some outstanding new players such as Blas Pérez, Hernán Pertúz and Carlos Rodriguez, and our #1 draft pick, Matt Hedges. These new acquisitions not only provide us depth, they add to the exciting style of play FC Dallas has become known for under the guidance of Schellas Hyndman.
FCDallas.com: What are a few of the changes FC Dallas fans can expect for the 2012 season?
Doug Quinn: From the time you pull off the Tollway you will notice changes. We have been working with the city of Frisco on traffic patterns to improve traffic flow into and out of FC Dallas Stadium. The light on Cotton Gin Road will remain green longer to allow more cars to make the right turn onto Main Street to access our free parking. We are also encouraging fans, especially during big games like MLS First Kick, our Fourth of July match and our July 28 game against the L.A. Galaxy, to exit further north on Eldorado and circle back to the stadium. This will help us to minimize the amount of time our fans spend waiting in traffic.
FCDallas.com: Can you talk to us about the newly renovated areas around the stadium?
Doug Quinn: Our executive team spent a lot of time this offseason discussing the best way to manage our pregame festivities. We decided to focus all of our energy on activities inside the stadium. In all, FC Dallas has spent over $1,500,000 improving the game-day experience for our fans this offseason. In specific regard to the stage area, we have expanded the Budweiser Beer Garden from last season to create a home for our fans age 21 and up looking for a unique soccer-supporter atmosphere. We have added 225 field-level bleacher seats that include in-seat drink service and are located just a few feet behind MLS legend Kevin Hartman and more importantly, opposing goalkeepers.
The Budweiser Beer Garden also boasts four 42-inch TVs, an FC Dallas merchandise tent, live entertainment and interactive elements featuring Budweiser promotional girls, pool ball and a prize wheel. Beer and food specials will be extended to last the entire game, so it is worth noting all food and drink must now stay in the Beer Garden during games.
On the west side of the stadium, our River Club by WinStar World Casino members will notice we have completed the transformation we began during our final games of 2011. The River Club now houses 27 brand-new 42-inch HDTVs, significantly improved food offerings for our guests who choose the one-price/all-you-can eat chef stations and over 50 percent greater seating capacity.
For those club members who are interested in sampling our more traditional and new concession offerings, your food and beverage cards are now accepted at all permanent locations around the stadium.
For all other stadium guests, we have expanded the stadium’s points-of-sale for general concessions from 78 to 105 locations and installed a new point-of-sale system to further expedite the transaction process and minimize the time FC Dallas fans spend waiting in line.
FCDallas.com: What is Lamar’s Tailgate?
Doug Quinn: Lamar’s Tailgate is all new and will kickoff our pregame festivities 90 minutes before each match. Instead of directing fans to participate in the March to the Match, we are creating a Texas-sized tailgate fueled by a 1,000 pound smoker. Having Legends Hospitality on board also helps us here: the BBQ smoker, street tacos, and different food and drink specials will be available before every FC Dallas home game. And Legends did all this without raising prices for our fans. The pregame atmosphere on the North concourse will be outstanding, so fans will want to get inside early. Along with the food and drink specials that will be offered during Lamar’s Tailgate prior to each game, we’ll have live music and entertainment and over 25 partners activating for our fans.
You’ll also be in a prime location to watch our players walk right through the Budweiser Beer Garden and onto the pitch and to be up close as we have our honorary VIP place a scarf around the statue of Lamar Hunt at the culmination of the pregame festivities. Check back to FCDallas.com later this week to find out who our VIP guest will be on Sunday.
FCDallas.com: What can we expect for 2012 in terms of the attendance at FC Dallas Stadium?
Doug Quinn: Larger crowds. Season ticket sales are already ahead of 2011 by 40 percent. Group Sales are also up 20 percent and we are projecting to sell out all our suites for the entire 2012 season, in fact, there is only one left for sale.
Now, don’t misunderstand this positive progress as we are now going to have regular sell outs; we are far from reaching this objective, but when three times as many fans attend our annual season ticket holder event “Meet the Team” on a cold and rainy day, and we have a very well attended jersey launch at Trinity Hall, you know we are moving in the right direction. To achieve our goal of 17 sell outs and a waiting list for tickets, we’ll need the full force of our supporters to serve as ambassadors and spread the word that something special is happening at FC Dallas Stadium. We have already sold out two events at FC Dallas Stadium this year, the NCAA Division I Football Championship in January and the U.S. Women’s National Team game in February, we fully intend to keep that momentum rolling in March with MLS First Kick this Sunday as we take on the NYRBs.
FCDallas.com: What is the current climate of the FC Dallas sponsorship market?
Doug Quinn: It has been an incredibly active off season and I am pleased by the sharp rise in new quality partners that have joined the FC Dallas family along with returning partners that will all be working to provide our fans with some great promotional opportunities and experiences.
In addition to Budweiser, FC Dallas will have an all-time high 25 new presenting and associate partners for 2012.
In just the past three months we have brought Texas Health Resources on as our official health care partner, which has allowed us to expand our athletic training staff for both our pro team and Academy. Our new partnership with Vazata has vastly increased our technology capabilities at FC Dallas Stadium.
Another returning partner, Brown Forman, will feature an El Jimador Tequila Bar on the southeast concourse in addition to their Jack Daniel’s whiskey bar in the River Club. We have also inked a three-year deal with W J Deutsch and Sons (Yellow tail) to be our official wine partner.
Other new partnerships include A-Affordable, who becomes our official auto insurance partner and TXU Energy, who will be very active with the FC Dallas soccer tour, clinics and North Texas Soccer tournaments, and MoneyGram who has signed on to be the title partner of our inaugural FC Dallas Nations Cup and the Bobby Rhine Fall Invitational.
FCDallas.com: What is your ultimate goal for FC Dallas in the Future?
Doug Quinn: Our ultimate goal is to win championships, sellout all 17 games every season and continue to have the number one Youth Development Academy in the country. We expect to sellout at least four games this year. But to reach the level where we are selling out consistently, we know we have to do right by our fans. We will also continue to convert casual fans to avid fans that are season ticket holders. Our supporters should continue to spread the word and serve as ambassadors for our club.
We listened to what our supporters have asked for and have done the work during this past off-season to capture the attention of all soccer fans, bring them into FC Dallas Stadium, create a vibrant authentic soccer atmosphere and showcase the exciting style of play FC Dallas is becoming known for internationally. This season will be something very special.