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June 25, 2014 at 2:03 PM

GM Adrian Hanauer on moving LA game to Monday, Starfire turf and Oba Martins talks

Reporters got a chance to talk to Sounders FC part owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer about a variety of issues Wednesday. Here is a transcript of the interview:

*     *     *

(Can you explain more about how the Galaxy home game got moved to Monday?) “Look, we’re not naïve. It’s not optimal. We understand, and (it was) just sort of a series and sequence of events that led us to Monday night. But largely, we have a TV partner in ESPN that we love. They just signed a long-term extension with us. They think this is a huge game coming out of the World Cup — two big teams, World Cup players. The significance of that was not lost on us. If there had been better days/times to do it and fit all the pieces together, we would have. So ultimately we ended up on Monday night.

“Two things to that. There are some sports fans around the world that are mad when their team doesn’t get to be on Monday night. So we actually thought in some ways it’s kind of a cool badge of honor and something to try and hopefully turn a Monday night into a festive night. … We do feel like we’ve done pretty right by our season-ticket holders over the years and that we haven’t stepped too far out of line in terms of their sensitivities in making decisions. This may be as far (from) the over-delivering that we’ve ever gotten. We’re not thrilled about it, but we’re trying to turn a slightly negative into a positive. And our rep service people are in the office helping out anyone who has significant challenges with this game.”

(So was ESPN2 the main driving force behind the change?) “And Saturday is Mariners and Torchlight Parade, so Saturday was going to be a disaster. Saturday just wasn’t going to happen. For sure it wasn’t going to happen on ESPN. Sunday, there weren’t any good windows where we could work with ESPN and it ended up on Monday. The Galaxy is part of the equation and the league, as well. There were a number of constituents putting their two cents in.”

(So did ESPN approach you? Or did you approach ESPN?) “The city came to us and said, ‘This is not going to work.'”

(Are their plans to replace the Starfire turf?) “No firm replacement plans. Obviously if we end up with a USL team playing in that stadium, if it continues to be an Open Cup venue, it needs to be addressed. I’m always slightly cautious on that, because I’ve never met a coach or player who said anything good about a synthetic field. By the way, there is rarely distinction, so a synthetic field could be brand new and really good, and I’d hear the same comments about that as one that’s four years old and near the end of its lifespan. So I tend to take that with a little bit of a grain of salt. That said, we don’t want to put our players in jeopardy. We want the game to be as good and entertaining for the fans as possible. Those fields do come to the end of their lifespan, and we need to look at that surface and start to figure when we’re going to make that change.”

(It would seem you could sell way more than 4,000 tickets for the Sounders-Timbers Open Cup game. Why play it there?) “I think you’re right. I don’t know whether we’d sell six, eight, 10, 12, 14 (thousand). We’ve got another big game that will be 60,000-plus four days later. That played into it. We’ve been pretty disciplined about staying here, creating that atmosphere like last night. We could have gone on a little bit of a money grab and tried to sell a few more tickets at CenturyLink Field, and certainly our revenue would have been higher. I don’t think the atmosphere would have been better. I think it would’ve been worse, because my guess is it still would’ve been in the teens in terms of crowd, best case. And we’ve just sort of landed here. We like it. It’s a great small venue. We’d like it to be a little bit bigger, and those are conversations that we have had with Starfire and will continue to have, as well. By the way, back to the field, this is Starfire’s facility. We’re renters here, so they’re a big piece of that conversation and decision-making, as well.”

(Do you have the ability to just pay for it?) “It’s not as cut and dried as that. Starfire is a 501c3. It’s a nonprofit organization and they’re not allowed to be dictated to by a professional for-profit entity. Now in the field case, I think they understand that it’s not optimal either. I think we’d be able to work something out.”

(Anything you can say about talks with Obafemi Martins to keep him here?) “He has a contract through the end of this year as well as the end of next year with an option for another year. We love Oba. We hope that he wants to be here and that we can have him be here for a lot of years. But again, you guys know as well as I, in the world of football, anything is possible. Money talks and players have limited careers. If there is an opportunity for a player where they feel they can get compensated at a higher rate, and if the team that has the contract can be compensated in a way that they feel is appropriate, then sometimes players are transacted. We are talking with Oba and his representation, we want him to be here, but you never know in soccer.”

(Did you say a club option for 2016?) “Guaranteed through ’15. Club option for ’16.”

| More in Sounders FC, Stop and chats


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