My objective, then, is to encourage thoughtful exploration of a Worcester alternative, where large tracts of urban land are available and land prices are relatively inexpensive. Community support (or opposition), politics, etc. will also be a factor in Worcester, however, its too early to know whether these factors will work for or against a Worcester alternative. Some have commented that a move to Worcester would make the Revolution a small market team, and often cite the city only population of 181,000, implying that this is the market for a Worcester based MLS team. What is the market for a MLS team based in Worcester, and how does this market compare to the market for a Boston based MLS team?
I can't find much information on how professional teams determine and/or analyze market areas. It's not all of New England, because I doubt may northern New Englanders get to the games, and it's not just CT, MA and RI, because southeastern CT, while technically a part of New England, functions more as a metro NYC market and the southern New Hampshire is large enough today so that it should not be ignored. The market is also larger than just the city or town that the stadium is located in. The market is also larger than just Worcester County, which I assume is the target market for the local minor league professional teams - the Worcester Sharks and Worcester Tornadoes.
So, for the sake of discussion, I'm going to assume that the market area for a New England Revolution MLS team is anywhere within a 60 mile radius of the stadium. Assuming the stadium is located in an urban area with good highway access, this generally equates to anyone living within a hour and a half drive of the stadium. Why do I think people would be willing to drive up to an hour and a half to a Revolution game? One big reason for this is because that's what fans are already accustom to with the stadium in Foxboro. But setting that aside for a moment, the Revolution play just 18 home games per year, and if this year's schedule is typical, 14, or almost 80% of those home games are on the weekend (13 of these 14 games are scheduled Saturday evening matches), with just four Wednesday evening matches scheduled for the summer months. So not only is there relatively few home games per year in MLS soccer, but a majority of these games are scheduled for a Saturday evening, when most people are not working, kids are not in school, and people generally are more willing to travel outside of their normal, everyday routes. This is not the case with the Red Sox (81 home games per year), the Bruins (41 home games per year) or the Celtics (41 home games per year), who, because they play at least twice as many, if not four times the number of home games, play a good percentage of their games in the evening during the week, and having a stadium located in the heart of the densely populated Boston market is indeed necessary.
So how does the 60 mile radius market for Worcester compare to that of Boston?
|Map of Southern New England and 60 mi. Radius Circles Centered on Worcester (Red) and Boston (Blue)|
Now keep in mind we are trying to fill a stadium of lets say 22,000 people. So a stadium in the Boston area would need to capture 0.30% of their total population to sellout. Now the Worcester population is lower, so we are going to have to capture a larger percentage here, or 0.37%. Put another way, in order to sellout in the Boston market, we would need to get 3 out of every 1,000 people in the market to the game. Move the stadium to Worcester, you would need to get just one more of those 1,000 people, or 4 out of every 1,000 to the game to fill a stadium.