XFL commissioner Oliver Luck says he is satisfied with the progress of the revived spring-season American football league, but he admits that attendances in both Los Angeles and New York need to improve.
Luck was speaking at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on February 29, where the New York Guardians drew a crowd of just 12,116 fans at the 82,000-capacity venue. It was the lowest crowd thus far in the rebooted XFL, down from the previous low of 12,211 which was set by the LA Wildcats last weekend. The cold weather in the New York area played some role in keeping fans away.
By sharp contrast, the St. Louis BattleHawks gained another strong crowd, with an attendance of 27,527 at the Dome at America’s Center, which was marginally down from their record opening crowd of 29,554.
“[It’s] so far, so good. It’s still a relatively small sample size but everybody has had a home game, we’re now on second home games in our various markets,” Luck told SportBusiness. “I think the quality of play has been good. Can it be better? Absolutely, but I think it’s been pretty good.
“I think the attendances have been OK. There is something in the water out there in Seattle [the Dragons gained a crowd of 29,172 for their inaugural home game at CenturyLink Field], they love football and the MLS team [Seattle Sounders] draws well, [ice] hockey is going in there. St. Louis has its own unique circumstances but they clearly like pro football and come out to support it. Both the Texas teams [Dallas Renegades and Houston Roughnecks] are doing well but it might take a bit longer to develop a fanbase in LA or here in New York just because there is so much to do and there is massive amounts of competition,” Luck said.
Luck says XFL executives will re-examine team venues at the end of the season to determine if the facilities chosen are appropriate sizes in regards to the attendances generated. But he added that the league does not want its teams to primarily play in smaller venues to allow for the possibility of 30,000-plus attendances for play-off and championship games. Stadium availability is also an issue in certain markets, Luck added.
“We’ll take stock at the end of the season and see what makes the most sense [in regards to stadium size],” Luck said. “In a place like Houston, where we’re averaging 18,000 crowds, filling up the lower bowl…that size stadium of 38,000 gives you an opportunity for a big crowd, whether that’s a championship game or a play-off game. You don’t get that when your capacity is tapped out at 19,000 or 20,000 or whatever it is in a typical MLS building. But all in all I think we’re pleased with where we are.”
On his goals for the rest of the season, Luck said: “We want to make sure that our teams are becoming more and more relevant in their local communities, that includes attendance and media coverage and everything else. That’s a challenge as it’s brand new.”