Saturday morning, 10 buses packed full of Fire supporters will depart from two locations in Chicagoland.
Heading south on I-65 then east on I-70, it will take just over six hours before this rowdy bunch invades Columbus to make Crew Stadium FireHouse East once again (#FHEAST).
For the second-straight year, the Fire Front Office has sponsored a bus trip to the team’s away match against its closest geographic rivals. Pegged with a goal of growing the season ticket base, the genesis of it all according to Fire Vice President of Ticket Sales Mike Ernst, came from a meeting with the club’s Independent Supporters Association, Section 8 Chicago.
“Selling season tickets is a big way in which any club grows,” said Ernst. “We sat down with their leadership to get thoughts on what would be a motivating factor to get people excited to help us grow our club. Their resounding response was to expose fans to the excitement of traveling to support our team in another city.”
Idea in hand, the Fire went ahead and promised a free bus ride to any 2011 Supporters Season Ticket Holder (this includes Sector Latino and Section 80) so long as the collective hit a goal of 800 season tickets sold. They went well beyond that, surpassing 1,000 Supporters Season Tickets in 2011, allowing for nearly 500 fans to support the team in Columbus last June.
What they witnessed was a hard-fought match that eventually saw club legend Frank Klopas earn his first win as interim head coach when Cristian Nazarit knocked home a 90th minute winner at the south goal, right in front of the 500 traveling supporters.
It was also the team’s first win in the Ohio capital since 2007.
“The idea is something that’s beneficial on more than one level,” continued Ernst. “Not only are we looking to grow the season ticket base but also create life-long Fire fans. The idea of creating an experience like the bus trip, with the entrenched nature of shouting for your team against a stadium supporting the opposition -- we saw the potential to take people from being just a passing fan to becoming an avid Fire supporter.”
Things became even easier in 2012, with the club providing all willing Supporters Season Ticket Holder with a free bus ride to Columbus on Saturday. That promise has snowballed into 10 buses that will help travel almost all of the over 600 Fire supporters expected to be screaming for 90 minutes Saturday night at Crew Stadium.
“Tomorrow is the fun part,” said Ernst. “More than just creating another experience for our fans, tomorrow we go to Columbus to create an advantage for our team on the road. We hope our support can help provide another win for our team away from home this year, just like last season’s victory in Columbus.”