2 min read May 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Joe LaBue, president of Charlotte FC, spoke about regaining lost momentum in the aftermath of the pandemic for a team that had just been announced prior to the outbreak. “We have been really focused on getting that back in the past 12 months. We’ve made very intentional decisions along with putting a great strategy in place to grow awareness and build excitement for a team that didn’t exist and hadn’t played a match,” he said.
What have been some achievements and milestones for Charlotte FC over the past year and in early 2022?
Through the past year, there’s been a number of highlights. Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of the momentum we earned after the club was announced in the winter of 2019 with the pandemic following in January. We have been really focused on getting that back in the past 12 months. We’ve made very intentional decisions along with putting a great strategy in place to grow awareness and build excitement for a team that didn’t exist and hadn’t played a match. With that being said, we did start building a roster. Once we started signing players and building an identity, people started noticing us. On March 5, we broke the Major League Soccer attendance record with 74,479 fans at Bank of America Stadium, which was a key for us and something we identified early on as a goal. That momentum that we lost in 2020, we’ve gotten it back, and we’re going to keep building on it.
In what ways do you hope to see the sports scene further evolve and grow in Charlotte?
The sports scene in Charlotte is growing in parallel to the community at large, with a growing population, booming industries and overall success. We play a big part in that. We’re providing opportunities not just for the business community but also for families to come out and enjoy Charlotte. With Charlotte FC, we like to think we’re filling a bit of a gap on the sports and entertainment calendar. There’s obviously a number of things to do in this market. It’s on an upward trajectory and we’re excited about that.
What infrastructural improvements have been made or are being planned to improve the overall experience for fans on game day?
There are several ways to improve the game-day experience. Looking at the stadium specifically, the league mandates a center tunnel so we added to that space a premium club called the Vault that provides all-inclusive amenities and pitch level seats. Recently the field was changed to an artificial surface which has allowed us opportunities to interact with players’ families and fans post-match on the field. We also did some construction on the east end of the stadium where our supporters’ match ends. Entering the facility, there are giant TV monitors and a pair of dedicated bars for our supporters section. We also started to open up the gates 30 minutes earlier for season ticket members offering a discount on concessions during that time. We’re looking at the stadium holistically. Over the last 10 years, we’ve made renovations to enhance ingress and egress, provide product diversity, and added technology, including broadcast specific enhancements, evolve security screening and infrastructure to create a cashless stadium experience. We’re trying to make our players and attendees feel welcome and safe at our home stadium.
What are some creative ways you’re reaching out to fans, and potential fans, and improving their overall experience?
As we embark on our inaugural season, I think we have a very realistic expectation that we don’t have the answer to everything right now. We are finding our way. We’ve made some decisions that we were proud of and others that we’ve pivoted from. A lot of that is driven by our engagement with fans and the community at large through club led initiatives or participating in a number of public and private events. Keeping that presence in the community is important, and we’re there listening and asking questions. We’ve sent out post-match surveys after every match, asking for feedback on the game-day experience, trying to figure out what’s working and what opportunities are there. We added a Chief Fan Officer, a unique, first of its kind, position in professional sports that maintains a direct line of communications with our fans and supporters groups to make sure their voices are heard.
We’re very happy so far with our fan experience and in regards to potential fans, we’re also talking to people who haven’t come yet and are trying to find out why and what issues they are facing. We’re taking that seriously and we’re learning. We hope to grow our fanbase in an authentic way that is true to people in the Carolinas.
What is the importance of the Charlotte FC Academy?
The importance of the academy is significant for several reasons. It’s developing talent and is an opportunity for us to show the community what we are doing outside of match days. The Academy is active 12 months of the year. It’s an opportunity to give back, grow the game, give young players an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and it’s nice that they can do that right here in the Carolinas. Soccer has been a very important part of the market and has strong roots in the Carolinas. We’re just another way to amplify and entertain that talent. Next season we will launch an MLS Next Pro team which will complete the professional player pathway and bridge that gap between the Academy and our First Team. While we are still working out the final details, that will be another addition to the growing sports landscape here in the Charlotte area.
What is your outlook for Charlotte’s sports industry overall for the next two to three years?
It’s extremely positive. Charlotte is becoming one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. We’re starting at a perfect time because we’re providing an opportunity for people and businesses that are moving here and want to immerse themselves into the community. We have a product that everyone can enjoy. What better vehicle than sports and Charlotte FC? Charlotte overall is a very special place to do business. We’re excited to be involved with the growth of Charlotte and the sports industry.
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