OL Reign was the only team to be on the road for each of the NWSL’s first two weekends of play, spending over a week on the East Coast for their opening match against the Washington Spirit and their second game against Gotham FC. Suffice it to say, players are thrilled to finally be home at Lumen Field when league play continues on April 15. And more than that, they’re hoping to build on the big successes of last season’s move to Lumen, to start with a big home crowd, and to set more attendance records this season.
“No one likes to travel to the East Coast for two weeks when the season starts,” said OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock ahead of the team’s season opener. “But I think actually it will be nice to have a home game when we get back off of that and back off the international break, because I think normally with us when we have home games at the beginning, and then right away, it’s kind of a little bit of a slow build with our fans. Whereas I feel like if the league starts and there’s excitement, then we can really build up the first game at home, and get a lot of our fans in there from the off, and that’ll be super exciting.
“We finished last season with a great fanbase. Lumen was bouncing, and we kind of want that from the beginning — that’s our aim. We don’t want to get to August and September, and then start having that again because that’s end of season… we want to build that excitement from the very beginning.”
The club finished the 2022 season on a very strong note, setting an attendance record in its final regular season match against Orlando Pride, when 10,746 fans witnessed the club win the NWSL Shield, and shattering that record three weeks later when 21,491 attended their semifinal match against Kansas City Current. OL Reign had only three games last season with attendance below 5,000 fans, two of which were midweek games and all of which were early in the season; the second half of the season saw them average nearly 8,000 fans per game, significantly above their record attendance prior to moving to Lumen. This year they’re hoping to reach those numbers from the start, and build from there as hype surrounding this summer’s World Cup attracts yet more attention to the club and the league.
Ticket sales data is giving plenty of reasons for optimism about the club’s home opener in two weeks. A team source told Ride of the Valkyries that the club has grown its season ticket base by 16% year-over-year — mirroring a trend seen around the league, according to NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman — and they have already outsold last year’s regular-season home opener by 35%, which would put them in the range of 6,000 tickets sold and make for their highest ever regular-season opening game attendance, with plenty of time left to boost that number even higher.
Typically, ticket sales pick up in the days leading up to matches and the club is optimistic that they will shatter their old record, as has been seen across the country this year as each team has hosted its home opener. The club is promoting the game with the slogan “Show Up, Seattle!”, and players are clearly thrilled to finally be in front of their home fans.
“Oh yeah, we’re very excited about it,” forward Bethany Balcer told media after the Gotham match. “I think I speak for everyone when we say that Lumen was so much fun to play at last year. The atmosphere was incredible and it obviously grew as the season wore on, so [we’re] super excited to play in front of a home crowd, to not be on the road… We’re ready, hope the fans are.”