If There's One Thing I Would Change At DSGP
A phrase I had rarely heard prior to working and living in the United States is one I now hear regularly, and it truly has a bearing on repeat custom at sporting events.
The phrase is … ‘gameday experience’.
In England, what I now know as the gameday experience basically revolved around a pregame pint (or two), and a burger, pie, or bag of chips on the way to the ground.
That was it. There was no tailgating. There was no fluff or fanfare before kickoff, and certainly not at halftime. When I used to be the stadium announcer at The Dell, the previous home of Southampton, halftime ‘entertainment’ amounted to the top tunes of the day and perhaps the occasional announcement asking that ‘the driver of a blue Renault Clio, licensed plate XYZ, please return to your vehicle as you’ve left your lights on/you’re blocking the driveway of a local resident’.
For me, attending soccer matches growing up, the gameday experience was the 90 minutes of action on the field. There was rarely a consideration for everything else that is now commonplace here in the States. A good deal of that is because every moment outside of the action is a chance to market something, promote something, or celebrate something.
Having enjoyed some cracking experiences at MLS stadiums over the previous two seasons, including Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Nashville, LAFC, LA Galaxy, Minnesota, and Orlando, it is clear that the Rapids is lagging behind in certain areas.
A big gripe of mine down the years was always the design of the stadium, which left off an absolute need for any venue, whether it be a theater, stadium, or arena.
There is no player tunnel.
That sense of build-up, of drama, of sheer theater as the music builds, hand-in-hand with the anticipation. At The Dell there was one piece of music which was played which alerted fans to the fact the players were about to begin their walk-out, interspersed with classic commentary of match action. That song was One Vision by Queen.
We would be given the green light via walkie-talkie from a colleague in the tunnel, and I would fade up the classic track. When the opening bars of that song crackled into life through the stadium speakers, you would see fans halt their chatter mid conversation and crane their necks to await the emergence of the two teams from the tunnel.
The first sight of both teams would be met by a roar around the ground. It’s akin to the lights going up as the band takes to the stage, or the curtain coming up at the start of a Broadway show.
It is a sense of drama which is severely lacking at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. The players, instead, wander from the locker rooms and assemble by the steps before walking out once the MLS theme kicks in. But by then, the sense of anticipation, felt at most entertainment venues across the globe, is lost.
I know fans have their own personal peeves, and that’s not to say the club is not aware of them. For example, for a few seasons they dragged out an inflatable tunnel in the north-east corner of the ground to at least try to create a sense of drama. It was a little half-hearted, as everyone saw the players ‘sneak’ the 30 yards from the locker room to the makeshift tunnel.
Much of this goes back to the very design of the stadium. The stadium lacks a tunnel for one. Another element missing is a proper dugout for players and coaches. Those in place at the moment agitate season ticket holders in the fancy seats, as they can obscure the views of those sat in the rows closest to the pitch; seats which don’t come cheap!
I would love to hear from Rapids fans. How would you improve the gameday experience at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park? Let me know on Twitter @FlemingSport.