On Thursday afternoon Toronto FC hit the reset button.
With the 2012 calendar winding down, the Reds released the 2013 Season Seat Holder renewal prices, numbers that hearken back to the early days of the club, when BMO Field was full and its atmosphere electric.
The club will reduce season seat prices for the 2013 season by an average of 21% and in some sections by as much as 47%.
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President and Chief Operating Officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Tom Anselmi says “this is really about a relationship with the fans. The most important things to a TFC fan are team performance and atmosphere.
“The thing that upsets fans the most are team performance and price. Performance, atmosphere and price are all related. “
In addressing the price, nearly 90% of season seat holders will see a reduction of at least 20%, according to the club. The average ticket price will drop from $41 to $33, and the Supporters Section in the south end will see their season tickets go back down to $10 next season from $19 in 2012. The club hopes these moves will be one piece in helping to revive BMO Field’s once famous (at times infamous) and boisterous atmosphere. Those renewing seats also receive a ticket to see the Reds take on Montreal away to Olympic Stadium in 2013.
“We want to thank people for their loyalty, thank them for hanging in with us and make sure the price isn’t an irritant.”
The second piece in the restoration of BMO Field is results on the pitch. Anselmi admits the club has let the fans down with only a handful of wins in each of last two seasons. Anselmi echoes fans’ frustration in saying that isn’t good enough.
“Lower prices but higher expectations” is how MLSE’s top executive likes to characterize the 2013 season. Head coach Paul Mariner and his staff will have the full support of Anselmi and the new MLSE board to deliver results on the pitch.
“We are going to look at the whole operation and expect recommendations and plans at the end of this season. This is the first full offseason Paul will have and if there’s a need, we’ll look at it. That’s not the issue, the issue is the team needs to get it right.”
Not long ago clubs across MLS were flying in front office staff to shadow their Toronto counterparts. The BMO Field setting alerted MLS to Canada’s potential, and U.S. expansion teams borrowed elements of the Toronto blueprint to build their own success. For this, Anselmi credits TFC supporters.
“Our fans built this franchise, we didn’t,” Anselmi said candidly. “They set the tone for what it means to be a supporter in North America, they changed MLS. They set the stage for expansion and the bar for what it means to have great atmosphere in the building.”
Expansion era prices automatically triggers old memories. Asked about his favourite moment from the inaugural 2007 season, Anselmi had difficulty choosing between the home opener and the first win on May 12, when that legendary 24th minute Danny Dichio goal caused seat cushions to rain down on to BMO Field.
That day TFC stole headlines for a sport that was struggling to gain recognition, a league that was desperately looking for a spark. Anselmi wants a return to that era, this time on the back of a winning team.
“We need to give the fans a product that gets us back to that place and when we do, it’s going to be spectacular.”