Alan Matheus glanced at a poster filled with hundreds of faces, some famous but most of them anonymous, and the words “We are LAFC” emblazoned across the top.
After seeing the sign, it took Matheus, the chef and owner of a small Mexican restaurant in Boyle Heights, a matter of moments to know he wanted to join the Los Angeles Football Club.
“You could just tell that their goal was to unite the city with the game of soccer,” Matheus said.
At the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in downtown Los Angeles, and hidden behind a large black gate, is an old warehouse that the LAFC has converted into a modern-industrial style showroom.
Hung on exposed brick and concrete walls are a dozen large posters with the words “Unite” and “Connection” prominently featured along with graphics that detail the expansion of Major League Soccer and the nation’s growing interest in the sport.
In the middle of the showroom sits a large model of the club’s future home, the 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium, which is under construction next to the Coliseum in South L.A.
And around the corner from the model, a virtual pitch is projected on the wall with oversized stadium seats set a few feet away to allow fans to sit and enjoy the view.
For the past three months the LAFC has given 16 showroom tours a day, each lasting 30 minutes, and ending with a pitch to buy premium season tickets.
Sales have soared.
“I liked the energy and vision of the team,” said Colin Cowherd, a Fox Sports host who took a tour last month and purchased two seats. “They have a real viewpoint on what they want to be and it got me excited.”
After 12 weeks the LAFC sold out of its premium inventory, which included 1,974 club seats, 32 suites and 49 loge boxes. Prices ranged from $588 to $105 per match. Tours for general admission seats are now underway.
“There has been a huge fascination and interest in being part of something from scratch,” LAFC owner and President Tom Penn said. “We felt like we were coming in at the right time. There is just a surge in interest in soccer.”
The LAFC hasn’t named a coach, has yet to announce the signing of any players and won’t play a match until 2018.
But all of that seemed of little matter to Matheus, who said the experience of the tour, speakers echoing cheers and seeing the view from his seat, solidified his decision to purchase three seats for his father, himself and his young son.
“They made me feel comfortable and at home. It was a no-brainer at that point for me to join the club,” Matheus said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this to come to our city.”