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October 6, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Chatting with GM Adrian Hanauer about attendance, league growth and more

hanauer mug.jpgReporters got a chance to catch up with GM Adrian Hanauer this week to discuss a couple topics. Yes, the upcoming vote was part of it, but so were a couple other topics.

Here is the transcript:

* * *

(On Sunday’s crowd of 66,000-plus…) “I think first and foremost it speaks volumes about the league overall. We wouldn’t be here without the partners who’ve come before us and plowed the soil and gotten us to the point where something like this is possible. Certainly our fans here continue to amaze us, and Sunday will be another example of that. I personally have never been as bullish as I am today about the continued growth in the league. I think that there are many good days ahead for this franchise and a lot of other franchises. As I look around the league, some of the attendance numbers from the weekend — numbers, but also the passion in some of the stadiums. It’s fantastic. So very excited about Sunday.”

(How have you been able to sustain and build from Year 1?) “I think it has a lot to do with just the continued growth of the game in Seattle, in the Northwest and nationwide. I think it’s not coincidental that all these things are sort of coming together: massive rights fees paid for World Cup and national team games, soccer on a multitude of channels on TV or online, sponsors jumping into the game because of the demographic that the game is reaching. … The fourth thing I would add to that is the improvement of the game overall. I think as MLS continues to improve, we bring in more good, quality, entertaining players, the whole league rises. What sort of growth rate is sustainable? I don’t know, and obviously there comes a point where it’s much more difficult to grow at the rate that the league is growing, but certainly the future is bright and I don’t see nay reason why this sort of fervor and passion shouldn’t be sustainable.”

(Can you foresee a day when big crowds like this aren’t a big story?) “I don’t know that crowds of 60,000 are going to be regular. The reality is obviously there are only a few markets that can accommodate that. But I think the bigger story will be stadiums sold out in advance of the season for the entire season, teams having to try and figure out how they’re going to add capacity to their stadia, the sport continuing to compete and grab mind share from the other four major league sports in this country, so I do think there are going to be more of those types of issues. I hope in Seattle that we get to the place where 60,000 fan crowds aren’t really a story anymore because they’re happening on such a regular basis, but I’m not presumptuous enough to assume that will happen. I hope that we keep things headed in the right direction leaguewise and teamwise so that that is the case.”

(Did you target this kind of growth or was it more modest?) “No, more modest — for sure. Look, we knew it would be successful, but I think even in our wildest dreams having three games this year averaging 60,000 was probably beyond what even my big-thinking majority partner Joe Roth would’ve envisioned. But for sure we had our sights set on big things for this franchise.”

(Any GM debates, speeches or campaigning coming up?) “Not unless the polls turn and I need to go out and do some campaigning. I’m probably one of those candidates right now who should just not say very much and maybe we can get through the election.”

(Any handlers or managers running this thing?) “My girlfiend and my mom are helping out.”

(Think your Q rating is going up?) “(smiles) … Yeah.”

(On the GM vote in contrast to the New York Red Bulls, who recently fired their GM…) “Look, there are lots of different ways to make this work in our sport, in our business, so I wouldn’t want to tell others how to operate. But I really like this process. For sure it’s easier for me as an owner to like the process. I think it’s really, really good to go through this with me as the general manager, because we need to figure out what the best process is going forward, like Drew (Carey) says 20-, 40- 100-years from now: What does this vote look like for someone who does count on this job to put food on their table and for whom it is maybe a precarious commitment? But I love the fact that it is a fan-driven thing. That’s not to say, by the way, that an ownership group in our organization couldn’t do the same thing. To be honest, I don’t know what the charter says, but I assume it says that if Joe (Roth) and I and Paul Allen and Drew want to get rid of a general manager, we can do that. So I think it’s sort of the best of both worlds.”

(And Sunday night keeps you passionate about what you do…) “Oh yeah. I love it. I’ve got the best job in the world. Again, these sorts of nights coming up just show me how much is possible, and certainly that there’s still work ahead. I guess the only thing I don’t like about nights like Sunday is the immense stomachache that I’ll start the night with hoping that our team delivers on a big night like that.”

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