Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Improved Front Office in 2009

As I mentioned in my Midseason Review last week the Rapids Front Office has been greatly improved this year. First and foremost they have made solid player decisions since the end of the 2008 season such as:
  • Offering Bouna a 6-figure contract, then when he turned it down making a good move to get Matt Pickens
  • Getting out of the Christian Gomez mess, and getting our DP slot + a player back
  • Signing young players LaBrocca, Cummings, Clark, Harvey, Kimura, and Ihemelu to new 4 year contracts
  • Trading a draft pick for Ty Harden
  • Signing captain Pablo Mastroeni to a new long term deal
The only bad player move the Front Office has made is not making enough good moves. We still need some forward depth and possibly a string central midfielder.

On top of the good player dealings the Front Offices has come a long way in its dealings with the supporters groups. This started almost as soon as last season ended with an open supporters meeting before the U.S. National Team game. That was the first time in years the Rapids GM has met with the supporters in an open meeting. The team allowed the supporters the use of the Cantina the weekend before the home opener for a kickoff party. General Manager Jeff Plush and Director of Marketing Keiran Cain attended and were happy to answer any questions the fans might have had, and they arranged for coach Gary Smith to speak to the group. He brought along assistant coach Steve Guppy as well which was an added bonus. I can't remember Clavijo or Hankinson ever being "happy" to talk to supporters like Smith and Guppy were.

The relationship improvement has led to our new tailgate spot right in front of the stadium in one of the VIP lots. While parking is a little harder the location gives the groups great visibility instead of being pushed off to the far end of one of the lots. The FO has also put a Tuff Shed in that lot for the supporters to store the tailgating gear in, which saves the volunteers a ton of work.

The Front Office has also been making an effort to be visible to the fans. Technical Director Paul Bravo and Keiran have stopped by each of the first 3 tailgates to talk with the fans, answer questions, and get some of whatever Chef Nate has been cooking. Jeff Plush joined them for the first 2 tailgates as well. Kieran has also been out trying to help with some of the challenges of our new location as the interaction with the DSG Park staff and the Commerce City representatives has had some rough spots.

While I've only be in Denver for a year, I've followed the trials and tribulations of the relationship between the Rapids fans and the Front Office for years. The last few months has seen an improvement to a point that I'm not sure the relationship has ever been. There is still some work to do, but the issues seem to be getting less challenging.

I think that the big problems now aren't with the Rapids Front Office, but with the parent company Kroenke Sports Enterprises(KSE). It seems like there's a lack of solid communication between the Rapids and the other parts of KSE they have to interact with. When things like the Rapids handing out a TV schedule, only for Altitude to change it 2 days later or the Rapids handing out season parking passes that the DSG Park staff rip up after one use happen, it makes me think that there's nobody coordinating KSE corporate groups. I would assume that's not a job for the Rapids FO, but somebody higher up that should be overseeing the connection points between the Rapids, DSG Park, Altitude, etc.

Overall though I think the fans are starting to rethink their opinion of the Rapids Front Office. There's been an antagonistic relationship for a long time, so a few months of good results isn't enough to completely change their minds, but at least the instinct to automatically think the worst seems to be fading somewhat. Hopefully this New And Improved Rapids FO will continue.

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