The mission statement of Section 8 Chicago is, it must be said, ambitious: “. . . to unite all Chicago Fire fans, to create a dominant in-stadium force unseen in any American team sport and to establish a home-field advantage whenever the Chicago Fire play.”
A dominant in-stadium force unseen in any American team sport. That is, to make Fire fans a 12th man unmatched elsewhere in MLS, and outstripping the atmospheres more often found in college sports than professional sports outside soccer in terms of fan motivation for the team in the United States.
There are moments, though, when it feels like such a lofty goal isn’t so far off for Fire fans. The New England play-off game last year is perhaps the most obvious recent example. The point of it is to give the players that extra buzz: after the game, John Thorrington’s words suggested we, the fans, had succeeded.
“They were fantastic,” Thorrington said. “I can't remember seeing a crowd like that here. They were energetic from the get go through the end of the game and then after the game too. It was just incredible for us. All the players noticed it and we really feed off that energy.”
The aim of Section 8 Chicago is to help unite the stadium and build that atmosphere every game. Before the LA game, there will be an unprecedented “tifo” display that aims to do just that, involving everyone from Sector Latino to the Skyway to the Harlem End to the Club seats.
But it is in the Harlem End where we have worked hardest to build that atmosphere to reach the goals of the mission statement every game. To create an end of the stadium filled with banners, songs, drums, chants, flags. To have all fans responding when we ask: “Who’s the best?”
In the Harlem End, “Section 8”, the standing, singing, supporting section, was once only located in section 118 at Toyota Park. In the rough early period at Toyota Park, we had a mere 89 season ticket holders in Section 8. Despite many ups and downs since, that number has somehow mushroomed to over 400. In 2010, Section 8 now subsumes both sections 117 and 118, and we sold out for the LA game tomorrow almost two weeks ago. The energy, the enthusiasm, the ever spreading passion for the Fire is growing unabated.
In 2011, the Fire announced yesterday, Section 8 will grow to encompass most of the Harlem End, from 116 to 119. We have set a target to double our season ticket holder base to 800. We have spent months crafting with the front office ways to attract fans into the fold full-time, to make them part of the club: discounted parking, concessions and merchandise will sure help. If you make even ten games a year, a season ticket is a great economic decision, especially with a $25 down payment in Section 8 and the remaining $175 spread over the next twelve months.
Our purpose, though, is not to sell more tickets for the sake of it. If you want to sit down and clap for the Fire, awesome. But Section 8’s not for you – the Fire offer great deals around the stadium, and your passion has a home there. Section 8 isn’t a crazy place, but it is a place for participation, for fun, for jumping, singing, standing, and occasionally tumbling over such is the enthusiasm for the club. It’s about noise and visual support for the club, it’s about having a flag waved in front of you, a banner raised above you, and the joy of seeing CJ do his dance and come over to Section 8 after the game. And knowing you’re sweating like CJ’s sweating because you’ve put in 90 minutes of effort for the team, too.
We want you to join us there, stand, sing, jump for the Fire. It’s affordable, it’s a joy to be a part of, it’s Section 8, and it’s all growing to help us reach that goal to “create a dominant in-stadium force unseen in any American team sport.” Join us now and in 2011.