As you saw in this morning's Freedom Kicks, D.C. United COO Tom Hunt talked with the Washington Business Journal about the team's partnership with Sunderland AFC. It is a fascinating interview, so take the time to read it; however, there is one section that I wanted to pull out in particular.
Hunt said there's discussion of a focus on beer and interactive gaming experiences at Buzzard Point to lure the millennial market.
"That's our big challenge, to convert the casual soccer fan and those people who love the EPL product, get them to become our fans and make MLS their league of choice and DCU their team of choice," Hunt said.
The concentration on beer makes sense, because there is a craft beer explosion going on right now. For example, there were 42 licensed breweries in Virginia in 2009; the 100th licensed brewery will open in Richmond in February. D.C. United has already started down this road, collaborating with DC Brau to create The Tradition; the Richmond Kickers had a craft beer night at City Stadium this season and also collaborated with Wild Wolf Brewery to create Kick It Hunny. Teams around the major sports leagues in the United States are seeing increased amounts of beer being purchased when craft beer is available, and are able to charge more for it as well.
Having craft beers on tap was the first step, and now these collaborations with teams are the second step; but, while building a brand new stadium, United should be looking towards the next step. Stadium pubs have been done before (though Populous, the creators of the most recent stadium renderings, created the bar in the renovated Coors Field), and D.C. already has some growler fill stores popping up. What do you think the next step is?
Interactive gaming experiences are a more controversial addition, but can be done in a way that doesn't adversely affect those fans who want no part of these things. In the past, these would be things like games on the concourse, applause meters, and other audience participation events. Now, everything is routed through people's smart phones; hopefully, this creates a more personal experience for the fan as well as limits the distraction to the people around them. The supporters who have been at RFK this entire time do not need any of these to continue attending, but to capitalize on the monetary possibilities that the new stadium should bring the team needs to connect with the people who do not come, or rarely come, to RFK.
What do you think about these possibilities for the stadium? Leave your suggestions for what you want in the comments!