Do you ever wish that things could be the way they used to be?
I do, but I also know that can’t happen. Yes, I realize it’s just my own selfishness that makes me long for simpler times. But I was there, man!
I was there before there were crowds of 18,000 plus at Wizards and SKC games. Before the huge video boards. Before the snappy new colors and cutting edge stadium.
Those were simpler times.
You could sit anywhere for five to 10 bucks. The stands were so sparsely littered with fans you could heckle players with elaborate chants they were sure to hear.
Those days are gone, people. With the home opener less than two months away, Sporting Kansas City is the hottest ticket in town…
There are a bunch of reasons Sporting has exploded over the past year. There’s the stadium of course, which is the biggest factor. There’s the winning, which will be the biggest factor going forward, once the “new stadium” thing wears off.
But there’s also this grass-roots movement that involves several informal supporter groups, the largest of which calls themselves “The Cauldron.” (Wizards… Cauldron… eh? Eh?).
Years ago, when the Wiz were still toiling away at Arrowhead and the players on the field nearly outnumbered the fans in the stands, there was a guy – a fanatic really – who decided to throw his passion behind this rainbow-colored crew. His name is Sam Pierron and he founded The Cauldron. With little more than some beer, a couple dozen other crazies, and a drum, The Cauldron was born.
That was then. Fast forward a decade plus later and…
Sam now works for Sporting in several capacities, one of which is as a ticketing guru. He, along with the forward-thinking ownership group, understands the relationship between the team’s biggest supporter’s group and the long term economic success of professional soccer in Kansas City.
But hold it right there; the first rule of The Cauldron is that you do not talk about The Cauldron.
“There’s no such thing as Cauldron membership, which is by design,” says Pierron. “But by any reasonable measure, affiliation has tripled [in the past 12 months], at the very minimum.”
Yes, business is booming at 1 Sporting Way. Though he couldn’t give a specific number, Pierron says more season tickets have already been sold than at this point last year. And last year, with about a month to go before the home opener they had sold over 11,000. I think the final number for last season ended up north of 12,000 season tickets sold.
Pierron sees nothing but growth heading into 2012’s season opener on St. Patty’s Day.
“I’m quite confident that, in the final analysis, our season ticket numbers will be improved from 2011,” he says confidently.
So what’re we looking at then? Maybe 15,000 or 16,000 season tickets sold in 2012? With a capacity of almost 19,000 at LIVESTRONG, you can see why Sporting tickets are a hot commodity, especially the home opener.
And The Cauldron is a big part of that.
“The power of The Cauldron has been most strongly felt as a force multiplier for any and all of our efforts,” explains Pierron. “Whether that’s working to create an authentic atmosphere inside the stadium, attendance at public events, spreading the word through social media, you name it. Also, there are situations where it’s best for us to let them run with their ideas, independent of us, because that provides more flexibility.”
Part of harnessing that power comes from the accessibility Sporting brings to the table, which includes a high level of personal interaction with diehard fans. Sporting main man Robb Heinemann regularly tweets about Cauldron events, discusses club matters with fans and local media, posts on soccer related blogs, and even throws down for a keg or three for tailgating on occasion.
Think about that; you can tweet @RobbHeinemann and he will probably answer you.
All that said, everything falls apart if the team doesn’t win. All the social media, all the bells and whistles of a new stadium and supporter’s club are mere accessories.
Last season saw Sporting win the East, and they are favorites heading into the 2012 season after adding some top players to replace Omar Bravo and provide depth at key spots. Plus, their schedule doesn’t include a three month road trip to start off.
Single game tickets don’t go on sale until mid-February, so keep an eye out if you want to get in on the green beer-soaked party.
** Above photo credit to Thad Bell**