Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Red Bull New York

This weekend Major League Soccer starts its eleventh season. Among the many changes that occurred during the off-season, my favorite team, MetroStars, were purchased and renamed by the folks who sell Red Bull soft drinks. I held off on posting about this and am glad I did because my opinion has swung a bit since my initial reaction.

Before I moved to VT in 2000, I was a season ticket holder for MetroStars for their first four seasons (96-99). Despite the team being one of the crappiest franchises in the entire world of soccer, on and off the field, I stuck by them. Then out of the blue, they had been sold to Red Bull and had their name changed to Red Bull New York.

Red Bull had done this before when they bought a team in their native Austria and changed the team's name and declared it a new franchise with no history. That team had been around since 1933. So, the fans were pissed. Based upon that story and the idea of having the team name being an soulless advertisement for a soft drink, I wasn't too crazy about it. Then there were rumors that former Cosmo Georgio Chinalgia was going to be involved in the team. The guy is an idiot and would have run the place even further into the ground.

At that point, I was down on the new owners. However, since then, things have gotten much better. Now, I'm actually excited about the new team (even though I still won't wear a t-shirt or hat with that logo/advertisement on it). Here's what Red Bull has done to prove to me that they are going to be better owners than the prior ones:

  • They spent $100M for the team, a 50% stake in the team's new stadium and the naming rights to that stadium. Anyone dropping $100M on soccer in the US is a bit of a nutter but ultimately A-OK with me.
  • They said they weren't going to wipe clean the MetroStars history books like they did with Red Bull Salzburg. It's nice to know Roberto Donodoni's and Giovanni Savarese's time with the team counted for something.
  • They asked the players what they wanted in their locker room and over one weekend painted and refurbished the entire locker room. New furniture, plasma screen TVs in all the rooms, new name plates. The whole works. It shows a nice committment to the players and the fact they accomplished it over one weekend shows they can get stuff done quickly. They have their shit together; unlike prior management.
  • They have announced that they are going to put grass down over the FieldTurf and admitted that FieldTurf is dangerous for the players. Once again, it's a nice committment to the players and the fans. It's so much nicer to watch a game on grass than on turf. The ball just bounces and rolls so differently on grass than on turf.
  • For Red Bull New York's first game this year (away at DC United), they are offering a free bus trip to the game for any fan that wants to go. You just have to show up at Giants Stadium and they'll provide you with the bus and a ticket for the game. I don't know how many people they will get but it's a fun way to start the season and a nice reward to the hardcore fan base.
  • They want to sell out Giants Stadium for their home opener on April 8th (vs New England Revolution). It probably won't happen but I like that they think big and are trying different things. One rumor was they were trying to get Springsteen, Bon Jovi or Maroon 5 to play at halftime. It probably won't happen but at least they are trying. One thing they are definitely doing is offering free bus service for Revolution fans from Boston to Giants Stadium. It sound nuts to bus in your opponents fans but it'll generate more excitement in the crowd. Better atmosphere.
  • They got every game on TV for the season. In the past, the vast majority of MetroStars games would be on TV but there would always be a few dead games with no coverage. Once again, a nice move that shows respect for their bigger fans.
  • They have also announced that they are asking the architect of their new stadium to add in a retractable roof. I'm guessing some financial analyst has figured out that having a retractable roof will pay for itself by allowing them to host concerts and other events in bad weather. However, it still shows they are serious about soccer in the US and here for the long haul.
  • Plus, it doesn't look like Chinalgia is going to be much of a presence around the team. Thank goodness.
That's a lot to accomplish in less than the one month since it was announced they had bought the team. If they can organize that much crap in such a short period of time, this franchise is much better off with them as management.

Having said all of that, I still can't get myself to drink a can of Red Bull. I saw the stuff when I was filling up with gas on the way back from the Silver Jews show. It was late and my ass was dragging but I still couldn't do it. I went with iced tea instead.


Jim said...

All good points. Despite making the team a big billboard, Red Bull is doing what other MLS owners should be doing - investing more in their product.

Flatlander said...

I agree. I feel a bit like I'm selling out by accepting the re-naming of the team in exchange for all of the other stuff. However, I've sold my soul for a lot less many times before.