Fans' View

Fans’ View: 10 years of the Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

This piece is written by Fans’ View contributor, Scott Ellis, published and edited by Ryan Rose.

An email from the Philadelphia Union Marketing team this week served as a timely reminder that we’re midway through the Union’s 10th season in MLS, which doubles as my 10th season as a season ticket holder (STH). For those not receiving this particular email, a new Founding Members banner will now hang on the east side of Talen, with the opportunity for founding members to add their signature to it during an upcoming home game. Naturally, this had me feeling all nostalgic, reflecting on my fan experience this year and over the 9 and ½ seasons to date!

So much has changed – I’ve switched seats a handful of times (including this season), switched my number of seats several times, seen amazing victories (Kleberson free kick goal), and crushing defeats (U.S. Open Cup versus Seattle), and everything in between. I’ve acquired a broad array of Union merchandise, with practically every item still transporting me back to some random moment or memory at the stadium.

While the giddy, Christmas morning feeling (is this really happening?) of actually having a pro soccer team in Philadelphia in 2010 has passed, there’s still so much I enjoy about the overall experience. With my first Fan’s View post of the season, I’m offering up 10 thoughts I’ve been storing up on the Union season ticket holder experience in 2019.

Pre-Season Meet the Team event

Incredibly cool idea that you just won’t get with nearly any other professional sports team? Absolutely. I attended again this year with my son, his friend, and his friend’s father. It’s such a unique opportunity to get autographs and pictures and to simply interact with players. While logistics were much improved over the prior year, and despite implementing a strategy to cover the room efficiently, the boys found themselves about 90 minutes in with only three or four autographs due to long, winding lines. Somehow, we really did hit our stride and managed to get to everyone in the final 30-40 minutes, but this event would benefit from more efficient flow and/or capping the number of attendees.

Online Account Manager

Over the years, I’ve had increased scheduling conflicts. The ability to easily sell and transfer tickets online (via a connection to StubHub), or to trade tickets in for tickets to future games is a great benefit.

Rewards Program

Honestly, I used to be all over this program and never missed entering the away game codes. I’ve slipped here and haven’t successfully redeemed rewards in a while. I’m curious to hear what other season ticket holders think of this program.

Ticket Representative

Another big positive, in my experience. My ticket representative Brittany checks in periodically, has always been friendly and responsive, and has been extremely helpful in the past with coordinating group ticket purchases. I’ve been impressed, so it makes the list here.

Team Management

This may be the most significant improvement and most refreshing aspect of this 2019 season. The early years were a mess, and the Earnie Stewart years never seemed to live up to expectations. I remember attending a Town Hall style event a few years back where Earnie Stewart preached patience, building through the academy, and seemed to want to temper expectations of competing in the near term. Things just feel different under Ernst Tanner, with aggressive, bold moves, a new system/style of play, and a clear commitment to being competitive now (while maintaining a commitment to developing young players).

Academy & Bethlehem Steel

I recently attended my first Steel match, at Goodman Stadium. Beautiful place to watch a game, but I definitely feel bad for the team being displaced, getting fined for conditions at LaSalle University, then getting displaced back out to Lehigh University on short notice. It brings back memories of the first team hopping in vans to train at Chester Park in the early years. Hopefully, there’s a solution coming for them.

On the flip side, the commitment to the Steel and the Academy and pre-Academy teams has been impressive to watch, and seems to be bearing fruit now.

Coach Curtin

A few years ago, I wrote a post about getting behind Curtin as a promising young coach. I’d be lying if I said I never second guessed that, but it’s nice to see Curtin getting more recognition across the league for a job well done now.

Midfield

What a special, fun group to watch. There’s grit. Energy. Smarts. The experience, savvy, and work rate of Bedoya. Bite, ball handling, energy, and skill from Monteiro. Pinpoint distribution and perfectly weighted long balls from Medunjanin. An exciting young attacking midfielder in Aaronson. Add in Ilsinsho, who can instantly change a game, and I believe we’re being treated to watching the best midfield group in Union history (even if not the deepest).

Concessions

One of the more uneven parts of the experience for me, but the recent addition of Zac’s, local beers like Sterling Pig on tap, and the Union Ale House deck are all highlights for me and my belly.

Tailgate

This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like these days, but nothing beats a beautiful summer or fall day by the river, a few cold drinks, a couple rounds of cornhole, and that walk to the stadium (even 10 years later).

16 Comments

  1. Overlooked: The TV Experience.
    .
    I live in central PA, a 3 hour drive to Union matches (especially when the product on the field doesn’t justify it) is just not regularly possible. So I rely on TV to consume that product.
    .
    Prior years: The comcast sports channels handled the games and I had easy access to pregame, postgame, and the game itself straight through my already expensive cable package. MLS-live was available and the quality was worth it.
    .
    Now: You must be a local in Philly to get ABC6. Otherwise, screw you. Shove out more money for poor quality ESPN service which only recently could you get the Union home coverage. Usually you had to deal with lackluster away team coverage.
    .
    The out-of-Philly area consumption capability of the Union has dramatically gone down in quality. Needs immediate improvement.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’m a Founding Member and I also have Brittany as my ticket rep… and I agree she is absolutely awesome. I am going to a fundraiser event in July and my friends and I are making a Union themed basket to be auctioned off – some cool merch, my 2 tickets to a game, parking pass, and an autographed scarf acquired via Brittany, who was super helpful when I reached out to ask if there was anything the Union could donate. Really awesome stuff.
    .
    I take advantage of the Rewards Program, mainly to get Club Passes from time to time, which is a cool perk if the weather might be sketchy or crazy hot. I watch EVERY game (that I don’t attend) and the code they put up on screen, to enter into the site to get extra points, never seems to work for me on my phone. I have to use my laptop to do it. Not a huge issue, but if someone from the Union is reading this… maybe check that out?!? Could just be me too, who knows.
    .
    I will say this about concessions: for years, and I mean YEARS… in the surveys that are sent out, I have been advocating for them to use stanchions to queue up the lines at the concession outlets – and not just Chickie’s outside of 127/128 (that has been stanchioned off forever). FINALLY this season it seems they have done it and it helps to alleviate the bunching up on the concourse during halftime. It’s not a perfect fix, but it makes the lines work better and it helps traffic flow. So there. That’s my little story about concessions. Maybe I got it done, maybe I didn’t (PS – I probably didn’t)… you can thank me later 🙂
    .
    Tailgating in Lot A is great and will always be great… paved or not.

    • John Ling says:

      For whatever it’s worth, OMW, I have the same issue with the TV codes – I have to go up to my PC (or already have my laptop out) for the code to work. It just doesn’t load on my phone, for whatever reason.

    • I did redeem rewards early on, for stadium tours and for my son and I to play in Fifa xbox tournament with okugo, hoppenot and others (very cool). I’m not sure if the program changed or me, but I haven’t done much with it these last few years. Maybe I just haven’t been on top of things there?

  3. I’ve had many good memories. despite the many woes i’ve expressed here, it has been nice to have pro soccer in my general area.

    oh man, the Pre-Season Meet the Team event. great experience, but it lost it’s appeal in recent seasons when team members were still be added the week before and there was little to no recognizability (fourth tier England player who?) or trading away players like Rosenberry.

    it’s been years now since i was a season ticket holder. the Rewards Program never got me anything, despite my efforts. if they’ve changed the value like club access, great. i regularly complained about the concession lines and concourse experience in the survey. since it never amounted to anything, i’ll give you the stanchions win, OMW.

    i’ve supported the Steel from press announce and game one through this season’s matches broadcast on ESPN+. i’m disappointed how they’ve been handled and this season. seems like a death blow to them being embraced as a minor league experience for the Lehigh Valley.

    • Every year I ask about the meet the team event. I can’t make it to Penn’s Landing on a Tuesday night coming from the Oaks/Audubon area. I ask every year to just put it on a Saturday afternoon. It would be much more crowded then. I went to a DC United meet the team event (friend has season tix) 3 years ago and they had the whole place just for the event. Games, booze, buffet all free The event lasted 3-4 hours and players were set up throughout the establishment for autographs.

      • It’s already too crowded, and the layout is tricky. The lines snake all over the place, in and around booths. There has to be a more efficient way to get people through. It seems like the stadium layout would be so much easier, though I get that may be less exciting than going to D and B in the city

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Those Saturdays are usually spoken for with preseason matches needed to fine tune conditioning in prep for the opener. Sometimes they are closed and unannounced.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    They used to have a separate meet the team event for the top rewards points people from the previous season at Fado’s that was MUCH less crowded than the one at Dave and Buster’s. It was generally no problem to spend a few minutes with most of the players (although a bit challenging with the non-English speakers).
    .
    The other perk I used once from the reward points was that we won a dinner with a Union player (John McCarthy) and 4 other couples. Since we were the grand prize winners, we also won a free night’s stay in one of the suites at the Sheraton at Penn’s Landing. That was a cool prize!
    .
    My biggest issue with the concessions this year is the policy where they are removing the bottle caps from the water. I have a number of issues with this, but the one that is probably most relatable to people here is when my wife had a bottle of water in the cupholder in front of her. Normally it would have been covered, but she couldn’t without the cap, so it was completely disgusting when the hair of the person in front of her went straight into the bottle. Not what we want at $4.50 per bottle (with the STH discount).

  5. Founding Member here as well:
    Never use the rewards; maybe I should based on what Andy wrote (free hotel night …)
    .
    Like the discounts we get for merchandise and beer
    .
    Like that we can pay with our ‘Union Dollars’.
    .
    Like all the reps I have had (and I have had many). Now it is Brandon Hopper. Started off with Greg Immnelt who still seems to be around.
    .
    Have many memories of the various ‘Meet the FO and coaches’ events. The saddest/funniest one was at Iron Abby several years back. Think it was only for SOB’s but was quite sad to hear how the FO defended a poor team at the time.
    .
    Really like the Union Ale Deck although now it is getting too crowded. They need to sort out how to handle the long queue before the game.
    .
    Went to the Linc on Sunday for the US game and really wish they had built the stadium around there. What a missed opportunity!
    .
    Started off going to the games with my 2 sons sitting in the last row of 138 with the SOB’s. My sons are no longer here in Philly but my wife became interested in the team so now we go together and sit just below the Union Ale Deck with others who also used to sit in the RE.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    Tonight I spent 200 reward points to buy a Lot F parking pass which is a shorter walk after the game than Lot A (albeit with probably a lot more traffic).

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    words Are weapons and I’ve wielded mine with intent and impunity. Skewered this organization and team for years… because they deserved it and I’m not required to be grateful for professional soccer nearby.
    .
    have Begged for a Vision Philosophy and Plan.
    .
    have Begged for total overhaul of the Academy and PreAcademy which is still needed despite the glad handling of national media or ‘pathway to the pros’
    .
    no one Is happier than me this thing seems to be tacking in the right direction. I’ve had a few conversations with Ernst Tanner and he is keen and totally unsatisfied. Every time.
    .
    supporting Philadelphia Union is bond.. ‘Til the day I die. Til the day I die.’
    .

  8. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Make restroom doors wide enough so two full-grown adults may pass each other simultaneously and easily, please.

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