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Seattle opener sold out
by Ridge Mahoney, March 3rd, 2009 7AM
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[MLS] Not to get too giddy about what's going on in Seattle, but right now, the sky - if not an imposed capacity for Qwest Field - seems to be the only limit. Sales for its inaugural game March 19 against New York have been cut off at slightly more than 32,400, and team management has also announced plans to increase the maximum capacity for regular-season games to 27,700.

"This community once again showed why Seattle has the best fans in the country," said Vulcan Sports and Entertainment CEO Tod Leiweke, who oversees operations for both the Sounders and NFL Seahawks. "The demand for tickets has exceeded our expectations, and the seating expansion to 27,700 will allow more fans to join us without jeopardizing the intimacy of the stadium.

"I think the economy is going to turn around. Obviously it's an issue now but the world hasn't stopped turning and there will always be a place in the world for quality products and services, and that's what we think we've got. We're going to invest substantial dollars to accommodate average crowds of 26,000 or 27,000 and we'll also be able to host international games by taking the top off the stadium [opening the upper levels]."
Vulcan will utilize just the lower sections of Qwest Field for most matches, and somehow has determined a maximum capacity that is 700 more than that of Home Depot Center, home stadium for the Galaxy, which is under the aegis of one Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group and brother of Tod. Coincidence?

In an interview a few weeks ago, Leiweke recalled the last time he and his brother went head to head, while he was president of the NHL Minnesota Wild, which occasionally played the AEG-owned Los Angeles Kings. "That will be fun," says Tod Leiweke. "It's always good to take on your brother. At the end of the day, the fans have spoken and it's our job to deliver."

Lead investor Joe Roth, a movie and TV producer/entrepreneur with several projects either in the production or pre-production phase, has proclaimed never before in the history of MLS will an expansion team start off as the No. 2 team in its market based on season-ticket sales. The team has passed the 20,000 mark and will cut off season tickets at 22,000, a hefty increase on the 16,000 mark attained by TFC last year.

"When we kick out the first ball Seattle will be the only city where soccer is the No. 2 sport," says Roth. "We'll have 21,000 or 22,000 season tickets sold and only the Seahawks have sold more season tickets. There's an audience there to be entertained and it's our job, on and off the field, to entertain them."

Echoing the beliefs of Tod Leiweke that certain industries, such as entertainment, are somewhat insulated from economic upheavals, Roth said, "The only thing that can stop us is a lack of imagination because we can entertain people on a regular basis in these economic times. And we can do that. For the fourth recession in a row the entertainment business is as strong as its ever been.

"People want to escape at a decent price. We've got to provide that, not only with a competitive team because fans demand that, but also putting on a good show."

The show opens, with a "full" house, in 16 days.



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