FC Cincinnati‘s success at the gate this season back in the headlines after Wednesday night, when the team drew a solid attendance figure despite overlapping with the Cincinnati Reds.
Wednesday marked the first time in 2016 that both FC Cincinnati and the Reds were both home for regular season games, and the results were solid for the soccer club, which drew over 14,000 fans to Nippert Stadium. That was not too far behind the more than 16,000 fans the Reds attracted to Great American Ballpark.
All and all, that is a solid showing for FC Cincinnati. The team has proven that it can draw crowds for weekend matches and friendlies against high-profile opponents, so posting that good numbers in the middle of the week only adds to the trend.
For right, now however, the Reds and FC Cincinnati are downplaying the competition angle. The two organizations are fairly intertwined–FC Cincinnati president Jeff Berding is a Reds’ season ticket holder, and majority owner Carl Linder has some ties to the Reds–and being about three miles apart means that they do not have to compete for the same parking and infrastructure space when they are both home.
For his part, Berding believes that there are other factors that allow the two teams to coexist. More from the Cincinnati Business Courier:
“The fan makeup is different,” he said. “We have a lot of millennials and students.”
Also, the per-game attendance isn’t totally comparable. The Reds play 81 homes games per season. FC Cincinnati has just 15 regular season home games and two other non-league games this season against the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace and a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Indy Eleven. FC Cincinnati typically plays once a week or twice at most. The Reds play almost every day.
Still, it’s an interesting comparison. At the start of the season, would anyone have predicted FC Cincinnati’s attendance would hold its own against the Reds when the two went head-to-head? Even Berding didn’t seem to see that coming. His goal at the beginning of the season was to average 10,000 fans a game. That, no doubt, meant weeknight crowds would be smaller. It wouldn’t have been part of the plan to draw 14,157 on a Wednesday night when kids are back in school, let alone on a night when the Reds were playing 3 miles away at Great American Ball Park.
And oddly enough, the two non-league games also went directly up against Reds home games. They had mixed results that you’d expect given the caliber of opponent. The Crystal Palace game that brought an internationally known team from what’s widely considered to be one of the world’s top leagues drew a sellout crowd of 35,061 to Nippert Stadium. But the Reds drew more than 31,000 that night, too. Indy Eleven, which plays in a lower league than FC Cincinnati, drew just 8,668 on a weeknight in May. The Reds drew 23,000 that night.
There has been a lot of discussion this season about whether FC Cincinnati’s success at the gate can translate to an eventual move to the MLS. Other elements are involved in gaining an MLS entry, and FC Cincinnati would have to address factors such as its stadium situation, training complexes, and much more to form a viable MLS bid. For now, though, having a good rapport and being able to coexist with the Reds gives FC Cincinnati a certain advantage as it tries to build on its early success.
Image courtesy of FC Cincinati.