Blast cuts out its losses, at least off field

March 11, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

For the first time in its 13 seasons, the Blast projects it will not lose money.

Breaking even is a breakthrough: The Blast had lost approximately $1 million a year until last season, when losses were cut to $674,000.

Today, at an afternoon news conference, Blast owner Ed Hale was expected to detail how the team has moved toward making a profit.

"If we get into the playoffs and do another [indoor tournament] in England, we could make money," Hale said. "It could be the difference between breaking even and making a little profit."

Hale bought the Blast three years ago. At the end of his first season, the team lost $1.1 million. Last year, the deficit was $674,000. Now, if projections hold, the bottom line will read: losses $0.

"First of all, this news is very helpful, as far as expansion goes," said Major Soccer League commissioner Earl Foreman. "We keep pointing out it can be done, if managed properly. Now, we've got an example to show. It's proof positive of what I'm preaching.

"And, secondly, I know Ed said he wanted to see if he could do this, and I'm pleased that, at this point, he feels it's going to happen. I think I'm mildly surprised and delighted."

There are at least five reasons for the achievement:

* Season-ticket sales have held steady at 3,000 and home attendance is up 15 percent entering back-to-back games this weekend.

* Sponsorships are up 25 percent, bringing in more than $1 million for the first time.

* The players have been willing to take salary cuts under the MSL/MISL Players Association agreement during the past three years (from a team cap of $850,000 in 1989-90 to one of $550,000 in 1991-92).

* Group sales are at an all-time high, with as many as 5,000 seats sold to groups for several games. At least 3,500 in group sales are expected for each game this weekend.

* The MSL schedule was cut from 52 to 40 games, giving the Blast's staff time to plan promotions and advertising campaigns.

The team is expected to draw between 9,000 to 10,000 for Friday's 8 p.m. game with the Cleveland Crunch, and for Saturday's 2:05 match with the San Diego Sockers.

"We're hoping to average 9,000 for our remaining five weekend home games and at least 6,000 for the Thursday, March 26 game against St. Louis," said Blast vice president Drew Forrester. "We're making a big push to draw 45,000 in five games, because that will determine the bottom line on the regular season. Right now, it's really up to the fans."

No other team in the MSL this season is expected to match the Blast's achievement. But the franchises in San Diego, St. Louis, Cleveland and Wichita are reducing deficits.

"For anyone to stand up and say they're breaking even is a real plus for this league," said Wichita Wings general manager Hugh Nicks. "We're heading in that direction. We think we've made a significant gain, and we're going to have the best season our club has ever had, but we're not at zero losses yet."

The Wings, who lead the league in season-ticket sales with 5,000, expect to cut last year's $750,000 deficit to $400,000.

Hale said he is "uplifted and happy" about his club's economic situation.

"It shows you can make economic sense out of it," Hale said. "We've had great fan, sponsor and group support this season, and that, combined with the 40-game schedule and running a lean operation, has made it work."

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