Meet the Team Night is easily my favorite night of the year (barring a championship). It’s the one night of the season I take off my press hat and go meet the team as a fan. The Cosmos had a Soccer Olympics events going on for the kids. And while this year’s event fell on a hotter day, it was a beautiful, sunny day in Long Island for a soccer game.
And all of an announced 2,871 were there to see it, the second smallest home attendance the Cosmos have announced in NASL play. In fact, both of the lowest attendances they have announced have happened this season.
It’s definitely a point for debate, but I firmly believe Nassau County cannot sustain this team for much longer and the Cosmos must now head for the boroughs, specifically Brooklyn.
Dropping attendance at Hofstra has been an often discussed issue among Cosmos fans and the league at large. And it’s hard not to notice.
2013 – The Reboot Year. The Cosmos experience one sell-out, the reboot match. While the remaining six home games don’t come close to repeating that achievement, none of them dip below 5,000 in attendance.
High – 11,929 / Low – 5,409 / Average – 6,859
|8/3/2013||Ft. Lauderdale Strikers||11929|
|8/24/2013||San Antonio Scorpions||6852|
|9/29/2013||Tampa Bay Rowdies||6518|
2014 – Sophomore Year. In their first full season of play, Cosmos attendance takes a notable drop. With nine matches out of fourteen over the 4000 mark, but only three crossing 5000, the attendance woes begin to become more visible.
High – 8,565 / Low – 3,091 / Average – 4,960
|4/26/2014||San Antonio Scorpions||4130|
|7/12/2014||San Antonio Scorpions||3806|
|9/6/2014||Ft. Lauderdale Strikers||3626|
|10/25/2014||Tampa Bay Rowdies||8565|
2015 – The Year of Raul. The Cosmos once again open up the season with a sell-out, only their second regular-season sellout in three years. However, even the presence of the Spaniard in his swansong isn’t enough as they once again post nine games over 4000 and move the needle up to five games over 5000.
High – 12,550 / Low – 3,326 / Average – 5,046
|4/18/2015||Tampa Bay Rowdies||12550|
|5/23/2015||San Antonio Scorpions||5032|
|8/2/2015||Ft. Lauderdale Strikers||4503|
|8/15/2015||San Antonio Scorpions||4006|
|10/31/2015||Tampa Bay Rowdies||5171|
2016 – Not been a banner year for the Mos. It’s especially reflected in attendance. In nine home matches played, announced attendance has climbed over 5000 twice. More alarmingly, the team has posted its two lowest attendances since the reboot in this year alone and seven games have sat at or below the 4000 mark. Admittedly, it’s only been nine games in and the team tends to see an uptick in attendance towards season’s end, but only after a decent amount of poorly attended matches.
High – 6,243 / Low – 2,419 / Average – 3,902
|5/22/2016||Tampa Bay Rowdies||6243|
|7/30/2016||Puerto Rico FC||3391|
For the sake of presenting a stable image of what NASL attendances look like, I’ve omitted US Open Cup, playoffs, and the one away league match in Brooklyn last year.
But, that does bring us to Brooklyn.
Last year, the Cosmos played two matches in Brooklyn. The first, a regular-season match against the Fury, drew an announced attendance of 5,279. Their second match was the NASL semifinal against the Fury in November. After not playing in Brooklyn for six months, with only advertising and street teams present in the weeks leading up to it, announced attendance did drop…to 5,061. This suggests, although it does not prove, that higher attendances can be found at a stadium that is more easily accessible.
Ease of transportation
To get to Shuart Stadium from New York City, you need to take whatever collection of trains and buses ($2.75 one-way/$5.50 RT) that gets you to the LIRR. The LIRR, from Atlantic Terminal or Penn Station, takes about another 40 minutes ($16 RT off-peak/$22.50 RT peak). And after all that is done, you hop on a shuttle bus for the last leg of the trip.
A friend of mine was traveling home with me on Sunday. His trip entailed an LIRR to Jamaica, another to Atlantic Terminal, a subway ride, then a transfer to another train. I told him that every game is a testament to how badly he wanted to go to a game.
And while that is amazing of him to do so, not everyone should have to or wants to prove their loyalty this way. it’s time-consuming and expensive.
A weekend game will cost you over $20 to get there and back. It’s almost $30 on a Wednesday night. Now, add in some family members and this trip begins to get prohibitively expensive.
Or you could spend $5.50 to get to MCU on public transportation with a Metrocard. That seems to work for the blue team up north.
Obviously, the drive for Long Islanders would not be easy. I’m not trying to write them off, but building from a bigger population center off a subway line should help boost attendance. And if there were really only 2,800 Long Islanders in attendance on Sunday night (and not everyone in that crowd was from LI), I have to question if the Nassau Country market can keep this team alive.
Within a ten-mile radius of Shuart Stadium, there is an estimated population of 1,668,682. This is a population reliant on shuttle service (after the LIRR) or their own vehicles to get there.
Within a ten-mile radius of MCU Park, there are approximately 2,956,409 people who have their choice of four subway or four bus lines to get them there, aside from the driving option.
On average this season, the Cosmos have pulled in 3,902 per game or about .234% of the population within that ten-mile radius. Let’s say the Cosmos pull in that same percentage in Brooklyn? You’re now talking about 6,918 people attending your match, close to a sellout for MCU Park. And this is without factoring the larger population and cheaper costs of going to the game, or other intangibles like a game-day experience.
Game Day Experience
The current Cosmos game day experience is fun, but pretty small and lacking in range. You can go to the 5 Points tailgate. Or you can go to Fan Fest.
Or…maybe walk down the street a bit and go to McD’s or Chipotle or Dunkin’ Donuts. There’s nothing else around within reasonable walking distance.
MCU Park has a few more things to offer. Coney Island Brewery. The Boardwalk. The beach. Luna Park. The New York Aquarium. Nathan’s. There’s a pretty decent list that allows you to turn your game day into a day out and that’s even before any Fan Fest style activities.
Aside from those individuals that plan out their day around a Cosmos match, this potentially offers a new dynamic, an increase in walk-ups. Right now, if you’re at the Cosmos ticket office on game day, it’s because you were there for a game. There’s no real reason to be in the area otherwise. With plentiful pedestrian traffic in the area, the Cosmos stand a better chance of walk-ups.
If the Cosmos want to make a sizable splash in 2017, the time to move is before year’s end. The Cyclones conclude their season on September 4th. The Cosmos will only have four home games remaining (plus playoffs, but who knows). The club has already proven that with street teams and advertising, they can create a draw in Brooklyn.
Will attendance take a hit? Possibly. But, take a look at the numbers in Nassau and it’s hard to believe they’d be any worse there. And more importantly, they’d begin setting the groundwork of playing week in and week out at their new location for 2017.
Brooklyn is not the final solution for the New York Cosmos. But, it is a temporary one. The Nassau market is not keeping this team alive and the numbers all suggest that the only way this team stays afloat is by making the trek to Coney.
Now, the question is whether the club sees this the same way.
Brooklyn is not the answer but it is a much needed fix. Attendance is embarrassing and the atmosphere in the building, save for the energy created by the 5 points, is non-existent. Even if you are able to bring someone new out to the game, it’s not likely they’ll be drawn back.
The whole game day experience is ‘minor league’, which is the very thing the NASL has to fight so hard to prove its not.
MCU is still a minor league venue but it is more professional than Hofstra. You can buy beer at the seats and there is the unique experience of sitting down and watching soccer with Luna Park in the background.
But is it the ultimate destination? For those on LI and Queens, Sitting in Belt Parkway or BQE traffic on a Summer weekend will get old quick. The Subways will draw new fans to the games but that long ride from the City is not ideal. The biggest draw will be the local communities and the Cosmos will have to hit the ground running hard to be one with lower Brooklyn.
Year 1 of any new team/stadium will always be good but there is no guarantee that moving to MCU Park will mean that Years 2, 3 and 4 will not see a decrease in attendance.