Since Eighty Six Forever first reported on the Vancouver Whitecaps' mishandling of their season ticket plans two weeks ago, there have been some new developments from both the club and the supporters.
For those unaware of the original story, the Vancouver Whitecaps' new season ticket pricing scheme is fairly reasonably priced for both the cheapest and the most expensive tickets in the house, but also include the most expensive supporters' section tickets in Major League Soccer. Tickets in the endzone, the traditional haunt of the supporters, are almost 25% more expensive than seats in the corners despite the corners offering a better view. The Whitecaps were quite open about the reason for this price gouging: there's a perception that the supporters' atmosphere will drive up the demand for their section and therefore allow the Whitecaps to charge higher prices.
Almost from the moment the announcement was made, the only extant organized Whitecaps supporters group, the Vancouver Southsiders, made an attempt to get a meeting with the Whitecaps' front office to discuss the concerns of their members. A poll was taken showing that almost half the membership of the Southsiders would be unwilling to pay the higher prices. However, the Whitecaps stalled in setting a meeting while consistently refusing to adjust their pricing structure. Starting this morning, the exclusive season ticket pre-sale window for the Southsiders that had long been promised began, but even that window was under more restrictive terms than the club had previously indicated.
It's not all bad news on the season ticket front. The supporters are making the best of it, and the club is at least opening up to the possibility of an imposing, Toronto-style atmosphere in Vancouver. But it's not all good either.
Reportedly, the Whitecaps have determined the size of their supporters' section: from section 204 near the southwest corner to section 249 in the southeast corner. This includes three of the eight $319 sections, as well as half of the teal $418 sections and the aqua $494 sections that there was so much fuss about. The approximate dimensions of the section are shown to the right: my apologies for the crudity of the map, but it was made by a tired idiot in a hurry on his netbook. The marketing literature seen by Eighty Six Forever only explicitly mentions supporters seating in the first eight rows, but the Southsiders' pre-sale goes up to every row and I'm giving the Whitecaps enough credit to think that people won't be happy to sit in row H behind the guys standing in row G.
However, the Whitecaps have limited the Southsiders' pre-sale to the teal portion of section 251 and the aqua sections 252, 253, and 254. Supporters wishing to sit in other parts of the supporters' section, including any of the $319 seating, will have to wait until the general purchase window and take their chances with the crowd. It should go without saying that the Whitecaps didn't need to offer the Southsiders a pre-sale window at all, and that allowing their paid members to take first crack at specific sections of BC Place shows a certain generosity that has previously been lacking. They have also expanded the Southsiders' selection from merely the first six rows of these sections to any part of the section they like, meaning that those who for some reason would like to rub their heads on the roof may now do so. I'm hard-pressed to think of a reason to deny early access to the $319 section that isn't incredibly cynical, however: "anyone enthusiastic enough to be interested in a pre-sale will pay the extra money, so we won't give you the chance to buy the cheapest tickets early."
Given these restrictions, you'll be unsurprised to hear that several supporters are waiting for the general sale and taking their chances on buying a $319 ticket. You will also be unsurprised to hear that most of the rest of the supporters are adjusting accordingly. Early indications are that corner seats, particularly the teal section 251 seats, will be the most popular among the supporters. The Whitecaps' attempts to build a supporters section around $494 tickets might backfire: the supporters are simply gravitating towards the cheapest seats. Remember, supporters don't get cheap tickets because they're supporters and deserve low prices. They go to the cheapest sections because they're cheapest, and everything else springs up around them. Hopefully, for the Whitecaps' sake, soccer moms won't mind spending almost $500 before taxes for the worst seats in the house because the atmosphere is in the corners.
Right now, though, I'm essentially re-stating old complaints. The Whitecaps were hardly going to tear down their whole ticket pricing system just because of 400-odd complaining supporters. Their reluctance to communicate with their supporters was also disappointing, but at the same time they did come through on the pre-sale and surpass their promise on the seats available. The only move which reeks of ill intent is that, even though they are including three sections of $319 seats in their "supporters section", they aren't making any of them available to their existing supporters for advance purchase. It's pretty obvious why they're doing so, but given the amount of interest in $319 seats or nothing else, it might backfire.
All the same, a bit of compromise is still compromise. After the depressing news of the last two weeks, I'm willing to take a sign of progress however small.