Bart Wiley, chief operating officer of Major League Soccer team the Seattle Sounders, discusses how the franchise satisfies its fans’ expectations.
In an exclusive interview with TheStadiumBusiness.com, Wiley reveals how the demographic of the fan base in Seattle affects the way it makes decisions in terms of pricing, technology and premium additions.
The Sounders play at CenturyLink Field, a 69,000-capacity stadium that it shares with NFL American football franchise the Seattle Seahawks.
MLS games at the stadium host a reduced capacity of nearly 40,000, though Wiley said that Sounders matches are often hitting the 44,000 mark.
“You trace that (high attendance numbers) back to the nostalgia of the Sounders as a brand,” Wiley said. “The Sounders have been around in Seattle since 1974 in the North American Soccer league, with the Cosmos and Pele. There’s a lot of history and nostalgia around the Sounders in Seattle.”
“Why have we been able to do what we do? That’s a popular question that we get asked. Ownership said we are going to be the best. We tried to create a major league thing which our city really really likes.
“Seattle is a unique city. I think the people like things that are unique. Soccer in North America is still pretty unique and still young and still growing.
“The atmosphere in the stadium at CenturyLink Field is fantastic. With a lot of friends of mine who don’t necessarily appreciate soccer, my challenge to them is come to the match, it’s 90 minutes, you can be door-to-door in two hours, but what happens in this stadium is electric and different than anything you’re going to see anywhere else.”
Wiley added that Sounders fans are “young, educated and wealthy by US standards,” as well as technologically savvy, which he and other executives consider when looking forward.
“We’ve made an effort this past year and a half to look harder at premium, with the economy in Seattle, with lots of people pouring in to work at Amazon and it is a city that is very wealthy at the moment. So, we have made more effort to go out to the business community.
“We play in a big stadium with 130 suites and a lot of different spaces to create premium inventory, and now it comes down to being wise on how many we introduce and at what price point and to make sure that there is an appetite for it before we introduce it.”