The chat was conducted with the help of MLSNet.com. Read the transcript of the chat below:
MLSNet.com: Thanks for stopping by Jeff.
Jeff Plush: I'm glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Daniel from Highlands Ranch:Has the Rapids organization communicated with other league team front offices to learn successful team marketing that can be applied in Denver? Do you believe your experience with other leagues can apply to the Rapids (if so how)?
Jeff Plush:The answer to that is yes on both questions. We're always reaching out to other members of MLS front offices as well as the league office to learn best practices. Clearly we have the belief that our experience in the NBA and the NHL is applicable. Fundamentally we're in the entertainment business.
Matt from Denver:What will make Colorado's new stadium better than existing stadiums such as Crew Stadium The Home Depot Center and Pizza Hut Park?
Jeff Plush:I think those stadiums have been great additions to the league and we hope to be thought of as a great addition to the league. We are unique in that we are less than eight miles from downtown Denver which we think makes us an attractive place to see a game in '07. Lastly the 24-field attached complex makes our offering unique and hopefully will be able to give us a participatory and spectator venue that everyone can be proud of.
Marshall from Denver:What plans does the Rapids front office have for promoting games and boosting attendance? It seems like the local lacrosse team (Colorado Mammoth) are much more visibly advertised around town.
Jeff Plush:To start with until recently I ran the business operations for the Mammoth so I'm confident that we will significantly change the marketing presence for the Rapids over the course of the next year. More importantly we need to take a long-term view of how we position this team in the marketplace. The new Rapids stadium is the first step in that process but we are here for the long haul and try not to make marketing decisions without the long-term view.
Joe from New Hampshire:The Rapids have always had a mediocre attendance while playing in a very large stadium. The team usually contends but has never won a championship. Which would have a greater impact on Colorado soccer: a new stadium or an MLS Cup?
Jeff Plush:As recently as 2002 the Rapids were fortunate enough to lead the league in attendance. However it's a fair point and we do believe that fundamentally a soccer-specific stadium is the most important thing to a fan experience. Of course winning is the great elixir in sports however only one team gets to win. For now the stadium complex is the most important thing for us to focus on on the business side.
Brian from Washington D.C.:I was wondering what the Rapids' broadcast plans for this season would be. Since the Investor/Operator of the team has significant media holdings can MLS fans around the country expect to see more Rapids games available locally and on the MLS Direct Kick package?
Jeff Plush:The answer to that is yes but in time. Altitude is still young (only in its second year) and our ownership of the Rapids is only in its third year. Looking towards the long-term view you can expect to see many Rapids games on Altitude. Mr. Kroenke is committed to both media and soccer for the long-term.
K.D. from Miami:Do you guys strongly believe that Colorado will come closer [feel more closely connected] to the Rapids after this stadium is done? If so what are your reasons to feel that way?
Jeff Plush:I'm 100% confident that this new stadium will lead to a much closer connection between the soccer community the mainstream sports community and our soccer club. I think historical evidence demonstrated in Columbus Los Angeles and Dallas would attest to that. And again it's not just a stadium it's a confluence of a stadium a 24-fields complex and a million square feet of retail space all less than eight miles from downtown Denver.
Dave from Denver:The entire league wants your club to returm to the green color scheme. When will you?
Jeff Plush:You'll see the introduction of green into the uniform scheme this year.
Todd from Commerce City ColoradWith the building of the new stadium do you anticipate trying to get National Team matches (Men’s or Women’s) here in the future? Would there also be a possibility of trying to get the state high school championships held there?
Jeff Plush:We're very excited about our new stadium in Commerce City and are confident it will be the premier soccer venue in the region. Consquently we anticipate hosting all levels of soccer in the stadium from the Rapids to high school to international games to special events like MLS Cup and the Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game.
Dan from Washington D.C.:Thanks for participating in the chat! As a DC fan I'm interested in any developments in teams' stadium situations. Is there any talk on the part of your organization to build a roof or heated surface to better facilitate a future move to the FIFA calendar of play? Best of luck for a successful season
Jeff Plush:Thank you for your participation Dan. We do have a roof structure that we feel is a great enhancement both to protect our fans from weather as well as to create an intimate experience. Obviously any changes to our calendar is a much bigger conversation. We're confident the weather in Denver could handle that switch if MLS ever wants to make that switch.
Ryan in Milwaukee:I believe that the salary cap is tightly restricting the growth of the league. I am not against it as I know it is important in keeping the league competitive but with some players making hundreds of thousands of dollars it leaves little room for the rest of the players on the roster. This is making it harder to keep our big name players in America. Are there any plans on expanding the salary cap?
Jeff Plush:I think it's fair to say that all the MLS teams and the league office are always looking for ways to advance our league forward. That isn't always done by increasing salaries but it is certainly something that we have to be thinking about as we continue to grow this league.
Dan from Golden:What are you and your staff doing to increase your season ticket sales for this year?
Jeff Plush:The most important thing we can do to increase season ticket sales is to show people what the future looks like in the new Rapids stadium. We're making a massive committment to soccer with it and the venue that is coming online is going to be the best in the United States. Nothing can compare to soccer in an environment that is built for soccer. That said we continue to work hard on 2006 and have significantly increased our ticket sales staff and are looking forward to a successful season ticket campaign throughout 2006.
Brian from Milpitas Calif.:I recently saw an informal poll on an internet message board that asked the question "Which MLS team do you know the least about?" The winner of this poll was Colorado. How do you address the lack of presence the Rapids seem to have with actual soccer fans across the country let alone in the Denver metro area?
Jeff Plush:I think we take those comments very seriously. We are working tirelessly to reverse that perception if it indeed it is out there. I am very confident that the sentiment will not exist a year from now.
Erich in Evergreen ColoradWhat was the first thing you did to help the club after you were hired in January?
Jeff Plush:My first order of business was to start to change our culture to one that is positive proactive can-do and forward thinking. I'm not concerned with what's happened in the past. We're 100% focused on what the future holds for our organization.
Ben from Denver:If the marketing needs to be viewed from a long term perspective are you throwing this season down the drain? I am in Denver and have seen zero ads for the upcoming season.
Jeff Plush:Obviously we're committed to 2006 both on the pitch and off. We are already advertising in print and radio and television will come online soon. When I talk about marketing with a long-term view I'm talking about having a brand strategy not just a media buy. We purposefully chose the current Rapids theme of "Experience the World's Game" because it's a long-term platform for us.
Ronnie from Denver:How important do you feel it is to have a genuine rivalry form between the Rapids and Real Salt Lake? Or does it not matter at all?
Jeff Plush:Rivalry is what makes sports so fun and so dramatic. We anticipate the Rocky Mountain Cup evolving into something that the Rapids and Real Salt Lake take very seriously. There's always been a rivalry between Colorado and Utah whether it's sports or skiing. We see this as another fun extension of that rivalry.
Rob from Boston: Jeff as someone interested in sports marketing and soccer's growth in the country what would you say is the best way to get involved with an MLS front office?
Jeff Plush:Nothing can equal real hands-on experience specifically in ticket sales. It's the foundation of not only MLS but all sports leagues. You have to be prepared to start at the bottom. It's a very competitive business but very rewarding once you've committed yourself to it.
Kevin from Phoenix:I applaud the Rapids for having the only Latino coach in MLS. How do you reach out to the Latino community in the Denver area?
Jeff Plush:We stated early on that we want to be an organization that is multicultural in our perspective on how we do business. Fernando Clavijo is a great asset in that perspective. We are currently having numerous conversations with entities of many different ethnicities who are interested in bringing events camps clinics etc. to our new venue. It will be a daily focus of our organization on an ongoing basis.
Kalani from DenverI have always been a fan of Clint Mathis. How well has he been fitting in to your team's preparations for the new season? I really hope he has a comeback kind of year .. even though I am a devout Galaxy fan.
Jeff Plush:Clint has been an absolute joy to be around and has exceeded our expectations. And our expectations were high already anyway. We feel very good about our midfield tandem of Clint and Pablo Mastroeni in the center of the pitch.
Daniel from New YorkWith the signing of Israeli Dedi Ben-Dayan the Rapids have shown that they are open to players from all over the world yet MLS seems to commit itself towards signing American players. What do you think the future will be for the Rapids as well as the MLS in general in regards to the signing of international players?
Jeff Plush:Fernando is a great believer in looking for young talent both domestically and abroad. I believe as MLS continues to grow it will become a very attractive place for kids of all backgrounds and nationalities to want to ply their trade. We're fortunate to work in a sport that is truly global and I think you'll continue to see what I call the "breaking down of borders through sport."
Rob from BostonDoes the Rapids front office pay any attention to "internet buzz" such as chat or message boards? Unlike the other pro sports it seems like the most consistent source of feedback available to teams.
Jeff Plush:We are proud to have a sport that people are so passionate about that message boards chat rooms and online communities have so much interest. Soccer fans bring great passion and apparently great technological saavy which is a great combination for the growth of our sport. I'm very interested to see where Nike and Google's new soccer community goes in the next six months.
Mark in Denver:In the past the Rapids focus has been on group sales - and consequently a "family" atmosphere. My feeling the main failure of the club is to not create a true sports atmosphere you see in the NHL and NFL like you see here with the Avs and Broncos. What's your views on balancing family with fanatatics?
Jeff Plush:I tend to agree with you. I think you're always looking for that balance. Clearly we want to be a venue that is both fun entertaining and still responsible to young and old alike. I think for soccer's long-term success it will be critical to get mainstream sports fan excited about our game. We all know that once you're hooked on our game it becomes a passion very quickly.
Greenie from ColoradWhat improvements are you/KSE demanding both on the field and off out of the Rapids in 2006?
Jeff Plush:My expectations are for us to be a great organization both on and off the field. That means providing value to our season ticket holders a marketing platform for our corporate partners being a leader and valued member in the community and being forward thinking and responsible in how we work with the youth of the Rocky Mountain region. I feel that if we take that mission into every work day success will follow both on and off the field.
MLSnet.com:Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Any final thoughts?
Jeff Plush:For those of you who participated from the Denver area we look forward to seeing you on April 8th for our home opener. For the rest of you thanks for your continued support of Major League Soccer. I'm happy to do this any time.