In my last post, I discussed the facility expansion plans for the Greater Binghamton Sports Complex which acts as the home field for Greater Binghamton FC. This is an overall positive development for the club, but with that in mind I would like to discuss the issue of ‘venue’ as it pertains to GBFC and other local clubs around the country.
I believe that a good venue in the right location can go along way to promoting fan attendance. I think this is something that MLS (and other upper level clubs) have finally figured out and are starting to implement (see Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, San Antonio Scorpions). I even see this working out at the NPSL level with clubs like Detroit City FC and Chattanooga FC.
This evidence, along with the obvious population concentrations in the Greater Binghamton area would suggest that an ideal venue for any team seeking to draw significant attendance should be located in or around downtown Binghamton or along the ‘Vestal Parkway’ corridor between downtown and Binghamton University. Within this geographic area, there are at least 3 venues which would meet the NPSL stadia criterion – NYSEG Stadium downtown, the Bearcats Sports Complex at Binghamton University, and Alumni Stadium on the East Side of Binghamton.
NYSEG Stadium presents a great location in dowtown Binghamton and boasts a true ‘stadium’ atmosphere. It is walking distance to a number of quality bars and restaurants and would provide a great game day march into the stadium. The downsides are that stadium capacity would likely dwarf most NPSL crowds, rent is high, and the stadium was constructed primarily for baseball.
Alumni Stadium is the home field of the Binghamton High School Patriots and is part of the East Middle School campus. While not downtown, Alumni Stadium provides easy highway access as well as walking access to a number of East Side pubs. Rent at Alumni is very reasonable considering the facilities that are available, and is a nicer facility than many clubs could boast. The biggest downside is the football lines. But at this level, I think that can be accepted. Another point of interest here is that United FC Binghamton of the WPSL played several matches of the 2012 campaign here AND offered free admission to all fans! At the very least, I would like to see a pre-season friendly played here if for no other reason than to try it out.
Bearcats Sports Complex is perhaps the best overall fit for a fledgling club like GBFC. The complex offers a brand new pitch, as well as intimate stadium seating for 2,500 with ample game day parking across the campus. Again, I think this warrants at least a pre-season friendly to determine viability.
As exciting as it is to have a ‘stadium’ at the GBFC complex on Airport Road, I don’t see the club drawing the same crowds as if they strategically located in the heart of the community. Call me a idealist with romantic notions, the proof will be in the upcoming season. Of course, venue alone won’t make or break a clubs draw at the gate – good marketing/PR, a professional product, and community/fan engagement will also make or break a clubs attendance.