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The Sports Page: Crew Downs Union, Update on Attendance and Pricing

 Corey Barnes The Sports Page: Crew Downs Union, Update on Attendance and Pricing
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Columbus Crew Week in Review:

Some uncharacteristically early offense plus a key penalty fueled the Columbus Crew’s 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at Crew Stadium. The “W”  secures the Crew’s first place slotting in the Eastern Conference and gives them two consecutive victories. In NBA Jam/Beer Pong parlance, they are heating up.

Both clubs had scoring chances in the first half but the Crew was the first to mark a tally. A deft centering pass from Robbie Rogers found Emilio Renteria among a swarm of Union players in front of the goal mouth. Renteria did not get much on the ball but redirected it just enough to slip the sphere past Union keeper Faryd Mondragon for the early Columbus lead. The Union rebutted five minutes later; Keon Daniel delivered a textbook corner kick just beyond the yearning grasp of Crew netminder William Hesmer. Philadelphia’s Veljko Paunovic was positioned perfectly for the equalizing header. The game went into halftime knotted at one. In the 51st minute, Rogers’ attempted a centering pass that was knocked out of bounds by Union defender Sheanon Williams. Initially believed to be a standard corner kick, referee Mark Kadlecik instead signaled that a handball had occurred much to the bewilderment of Williams. Since the penalty had taken place in the box, Columbus would be awarded a penalty kick. Andres Mendoza lined up to take the shot and was able to convert despite a strong effort from Mondragon. Hesmer continued to play well highlighted by a game-saving rejection in stoppage time that would have re-tied the contest. The win means that Columbus’ lead in the Eastern Conference is up to five points over the Houston Dynamo. The Black and Gold return to action Saturday in the Emerald City for a contest against the formidable Seattle Sounders. One more win and they’ll be on fire.

Addressing the Crew’s Attendance:

My column last week addressed the issue of attendance at Columbus Crew games. (If you missed it you can read it here.) The piece sparked some discussion and got the attention of one Phil Goldfarb, a Soccer Entertainment Specialist with the Columbus Crew (You can follow him on the Twitter @Pgold_23). I spoke with him on the phone last week to ask a few questions and discuss the Crew’s plan to remedy some of the club’s attendance woes.

First off, the reason parking costs ten dollars is because the lot is actually state property and must be paid for. The charge is not an attempt to squeeze more cash out of the customers, but to pay off a necessary bill. On the ticket front, there are a few changes in the pipeline to make games more affordable and accessible to fans. “It’s all about find the right fit,” Goldfarb said. The team is trying to create something that makes sense as well as cents. One of the prospective season ticket plans for next season costs $216/person which is approximately $12/game. There will also be a ticket policy that will allow partial-season ticket holders to roll over unused tickets to other games later in the season. For fans more interested in a single match experience there will be value packs worth about $22 good for ticket, hot dog, soft drink, and chips. There are other changes in the works beyond just the Crew’s operations as well. For one thing the 2012 MLS schedule will be announced in December – as opposed to March in previous years – which will allow fans to better plan the games they wish to attend. Goldfarb’s tone was very positive. He concluded by saying he feels the initiative is “moving in the right direction.”

Now I did not write all that to serve as a commercial for the Crew. I wrote it because I really like this team and I was greatly impressed by what I heard. The front office is listening, learning, and doing its best to improve the game-day experience for its fans. There are so many organizations in different sports that are lacking money (Sacramento Kings), cannot seem to win (Pittsburgh Pirates), or are just poorly run (Cincinnati Bengals). I personally find the Crew’s attitude refreshing and consider myself lucky. I think it’s important to understand that the days of $0.50 beers and five dollar tickets have gone the way of disco and barring a bizarre promotion will not return. Going to the stadium may cost a bit of money but so long as the team is doing well (which they are) and the club is not raising prices (which they are not) then there is plenty of reason to support the Black and Gold.

I know I am, I swear I am / Columbus till I die.

Photos provided by Matt Ellis of Three Songs Photography.

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