MLS team breaking ground, taking names

Officially putting a spade into the dirt at the site of the $115 million pro soccer stadium on Monday in Chester begins a new phase for a team that is scheduled to begin play in Major League Soccer in 2010.

Thomas Veit of MLSPhilly2010 said yesterday that fans should know before the end of the month how much tickets will cost, then a name-the-team contest will follow early in the new year. By spring, this franchise should have a name and what amounts to a logo and colors.

Veit said they’ve been reviewing the prices of MLS teams across the league as they land on a range of prices that appeals to all sectors of the base that they hope to attract.

“We want to make sure that everybody has an ability to come, regardless or price, and we want to make sure that people who want the amenities [can get them,]” he said. “There was a tradition for a long time in Philadelphia of guys that could be the trash hauler sitting next to the CEO, and so one of the things we worked really hard on in ticket pricing is that we’re going to have suites and we’re going to have club seats and other stuff that people want to spend money on, but we don’t want to isolate the common out fan, too. So we’ve been stacking our areas where, ‘hey, there are VIP areas and that’s great, but just because you’re not going to buy a club seat doesn’t mean that you’re not going to have an opportunity to sit on the sidelines right on the middle of the field in the front row, because we can do that somewhere else in the middle part of the stadium.

“So we’ve been working real hard on providing a broad range to allow everybody, to have the people who want to spend the money and have the big, padded seat and can go to the club. And the guy that wants to still sit in a great seat, but doesn’t really worry bout wanting to go to a club but would rather go for a hot dog with his kids . . . then that Philly tradition of having a diverse group of people all sitting together is something we really worked hard on. I think we’ve gotten there and we’re in the final stretches of having those prices finalized where people [know what they’ll be paying.]”

The franchise says that about 6,000 people have made deposits for tickets, which to this point have yet to be quantified. “The amazing ting about those seat deposits,” Veit said, “is that they did it without knowing what the price of the tickets would be. So I would say that the pricing of the tickets and the scale of where they’re going to be and how much they’re going to cost in the sections is probably the next thing you’re going to see come out, and you’re probably see that before the end of the year, and after that will be the logos and names and the colors and things like that.”

As a way to compare, tickets to see D.C. United range in cost from $1400 to $200 for a full season on action, which includes 15 league games and five international games. That team also offers half-season and flex plans (eight vouchers). The range is similar for the New York Range Bulls, with a 20-game package going from almost $1100 down to $272.

Meanwhile, officials continue to whittle down potential names. It hasn’t been easy, Veit said, “Every name in the known universe is being used by someone, somehow, somewhere,” he said. “Frankly, we started with over 135 names, and we’ve been vetting them out between what ownership liked and other people we’ve talked to.” The ultimate goal is to get it down to four possible names for the team that are not patented “or is close enough where we know we can get the trademarks and used them legally.”

The plan, Veit said, is to launch the naming contest sometime in January, where fans can vote online -- and possibly through a sponsor if those arrangements are completed – for one of the four names, or they can submit one of their own. Once the name is chosen, they’ll move on to how the jersey will look, including its colors, and what markings or badges will be included in the makeup of the uniform.

“In soccer, you have a couple different things,” he said. “First we’ll have a word mark and we’ll have a badge. The badge will get created later because the badge really isn’t specific to the name at times; if you look at a lot of the different teams it’s symbols and things more than that. But once we have the team name we’ll come up with the word mark look, the colors, and put that all together, and reveal that, and we’ll probably do that sometime early to mid first quarter.”

All the while the stadium should start to take shape down on the Chester waterfront, something that should be noticeable as folks drive by early in 2009.

“I would say sometime in the next few months,” he said. “You drive by now and you see a complete change in what it was. We have some before and after pictures and it’s amazing. There’s been a whole metamorphosis on the site land and I think you’ll start seeing stuff out of the ground pretty quick.”