Both Chivas USA and DC United have chosen to change the configuration of their stadium to make its capacity better match their crowds.
While the Major League Soccer has recently been setting record attendances, both clubs still play in stadiums that are too large for the crowds they attract, giving their matches a somewhat desolate feel.
The problem is most concrete for DC United, who play at the 46,000 RFK Stadium, but average about 15,000 fans per match. The upper tier of the stadium was already hardly used last season, generally only accommodating the visiting fans, but the club has now decided to complete close the deck for this season, hereby lowering the official capacity to 19,647.
The club plans to cover the upper tier with large sheets – possibly with sponsor advertisements – to create a more intimate atmosphere, following the example of other MLS clubs with large non-soccer-specific stadiums such as Seattle and Vancouver.
Though the capacity of the HDC is significantly less than that of the RFK Stadium – the HDC can hold 27,000 fans -, it is still too large for the fanbase of the Chivas who attract about 15,000 visitors per match. To limit the capacity (now 18,800 seats) the Chivas have closed the Upper East Deck and North Stand, and covered the closed section with club banners.
Apart from creating a more intimate atmosphere, the clubs also hope that the move will motivate more fans to book their tickets in advance, and that the reduced supply may create artificial shortages and in return boost demand.
It will also prepare both set of fans to possible moves to new stadiums that are both expected to have a capacity of about 18,000 to 20,000 seats.
DC United are hoping to move to a new stadium at Buzzard Point, though plans are still in very early stages and more visions than anything concrete.
The same goes for Chivas, who have expressed the desire to move away from the HDC they share with the LA Galaxy, but have not expressed any concrete plans yet for a smaller stadium at a different location.
So while both sets of fans may dream of a bright future, the reality of the moments requires more pragmatic solutions.
[UPDATE] At the same time a crowd of over 58,000 filled Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for the first ever home match of the Montreal Impact in the MLS.
Photo: © Flickr user antisocialtory.