An aggressive preseason advertising campaign, featuring more player appearances and four to eight daily commercials on six area radio stations, has resulted in the Baltimore Blast's largest advance ticket sale -- 10,030 -- for a home opener in six years.
The brisk sale for Saturday night's home opener (7:35) against the Dallas Sidekicks at the Baltimore Arena has enabled the Blast to surpass 10,000 in advance sales for the first time since 10,540 were sold before the 1985-86 opener.
The large advance sale for the 1985-86 opener came as no surprise. Baltimore was coming off a 32-16 regular-season record and an appearance in the Major Soccer League championship (( series against the San Diego Sockers.
But, this year, the Blast is trying to recover from the worst season in franchise history -- a 21-31 record that left the team out of the playoffs for the first time -- and from the departure of three members of its fan-selected All-Decade team, Bruce Savage, Scott Manning and Tim Wittman.
The Blast is fewer than 2,400 short of a sellout. The club hasn't sold out a game at the Arena since the 1989-90 season.
The stepped-up campaign also included 15 advertising flights over the sellout crowd for the final Baltimore Orioles game at Memorial Stadium Oct. 6, featuring the Blast slogan of "Anything Can Happen at a Blast Game."
The Memorial Stadium flights were part of the team's plans to expand the total advertising financial budget by 20 percent, said Drew Forrester, Blast vice president of soccer operations.
Another addition to this year's promotional push is "Super Fresh Super Saturdays," a campaign that will be run at 50 Super Fresh food markets in the Baltimore-Washington area.
According to Forrester, Super Fresh has purchased a large block of tickets for each Saturday night home game. Fans can pick up a coupon at Super Fresh that will be good for the purchase of two tickets for the price of one on specified Saturday nights.
Forrester said the larger advertising budget has been just part othe reason for increased ticket sales. Another, he said, has been "the players busting their butts to make appearances."
Forrester cited Saturday morning as an example.
"We had a scrimmage at noon at Myers Pavilion, but, at 9 o'clock in the morning, Doug Neely, David Eise, Rod Castro and Emil Dragicevic were all out in Dundalk meeting kids at 12 different youth games in the area," said Forrester. "And Mike Stankovic and Iain Fraser were both in Reisterstown making an appearance Saturday morning."
Neely, Eise, Castro, Fraser and Dragicevic are newcomers to thBlast and have been eager to make appearances, Forrester said.
"I'm not saying we didn't work hard in the past," said Forrester. "But, sometimes, you work hard and don't get the results. This year, we're getting the results."
The Blast will hold an opening-game pep rally tonight at the Golden Ring Mall center court.
Blast ticket sales for home openers in recent seasons (Baltimore Arena capacity is 12,392, which has been reduced from 12,523 because of seating for the disabled and a change in stage configuration):
Year.. .. .. Advance sale*.. .. .. Attendance
.. .. .. .. 10,030.. .. .. . .... .. -
1990.. .. .. .. .. . 6,900.. .. .. .. . 8,753
1989.. .. .. .. .. ..8,180.. .. .. .. . 9,595
1988.. .. .. .. .. . 9,668.. .. .. .. .12,510
1987.. .. .. .. .. . 9,904.. .. .. . . 12,506
1986.. .. .. .. .. . 7,890.. .. .. . . 10,525
1985.. .. .. .. .. 10,540.. .. .. .. . 12,523
*-Five days before game