Report From: SeatGeek Stadium & Chicago Red Stars

Multiple TMR staff took in the record-breaking Chicago Red Stars game at SeatGeek Stadium against North Carolina Courage FC on Sunday, July 21.

Below are staff notes and observations from the game…

TMR Gameday Notes

A big drawback to the stadium has always been the distance from downtown Chicago, and a sense of isolation once there. You’re surrounded by a huge rail yard and an industrial park.

Kudos to the Red Stars for offering their “Pub to Pitch” bus service from a downtown bar for just $5 per game with a season pass. Fans avoid road rage and enjoy some suds for a fraction of the cost of parking.

Specific to the big “World Cup Welcome Back” game, we have to give a nod to the Red Stars communications team as they pushed messaging about arriving early due to the large crowd. We saw this communicated across multiple channels in multiple ways.

That said, the team has to be disappointed with the SeatGeek Stadium operations folks.

Parking – at $20 per vehicle, mind you, not free – was a rough experience. For general parking there was one entry point off Harlem Ave. with just two lanes for traffic that pinched to one. No surprise that traffic was backed up for about two miles an hour before gametime and delays lasted through gametime.

The day’s rains made the gravel lot’s bumps and potholes worse. Puddles — along with some bodies of water big enough to qualify as a “pond,” if not a “lake,” — were everywhere making fans walk circuitous routes to the gates to avoid the ankle deep muck.

Once at the gates, we noted four (of six) SeatGeek Stadium gates open and each gate still had lines snaking for 75-100 yards at the start of the game due to minimal (2-3) staff scanning tickets.

Stadium operations knew well ahead of gameday that a large crowd was coming. Why weren’t there more hands on deck?

Same can be said inside the stadium. Concessions lines were terribly long well past halftime. Some stands (such as “Top Chef Quickfire”) were not open. The “Taste of Chicago” stand took 40 minutes to buy one Italian Beef sandwich and one flatbread. Was shocking that Spectra staff appeared so caught off-guard and ill-prepared.

Beers ran $8-$10, hot dogs were $5, most other meals were $9-$14.

Another headscratcher for us is the stadium sponsor signage (see image on right).

Credit: TMR

When we observed the game from the second level, and looked across the way above the suites, we saw a SeatGeek sign that got kind of lost because it was on a breathable mesh. Then we noted that all the large banners to either side of the SeatGeek banner faced out to the street.

We get that Harlem Avenue is a busy street that can generate a lot of “impressions,” and it does have value of reaching ticketholders walking into the game from that parking lot, but…to not have them double-sided for fans in the stadium to take in is a big miss.

And still wearing our sponsor hat, you can’t tell us that those pitch-level boards “pop” for fans to truly register while watching play. Look for yourself at the scale. They get lost easily. Yes, a big piece of their value is the TV exposure, but what about both for my brand?


Banners: AT&T, Savvy, CIBC and NovaCare

Pitch-Side Sponsors: Wintrust, CAC (Chicago Athletic Club), Nike (includes team kits), Mazda, Lifetime (Jersey Patch), Heineken (also includes Heineken Terrace), Girl Scouts, PACE (suburban bus transit), Hilton, Illinois Bone+Joint Institute, Magellan (includes presenting starting XI), 7up and Red Hot Chicago

Updated Sept. 16, 2019 – Links added