With the new Major League Soccer season up and running, FC Dallas is aiming to give fans an exciting experience in the skies above Toyota Stadium, as well as on the field.
Having hosted its first two drone shows last year, the franchise has trebled the number of displays as part of an extensive range of experiential events across the 2023 schedule of home fixtures, with theme nights ranging from dinosaurs to Star Wars.
Indeed, the calendar is packed with fireworks, giveaways, discounted beers and hotdogs, F-16 flyovers and more. For example, photo opportunities, DJs, inflatable games, foot darts and giant beer pong were among the attractions that featured on the St Patrick’s Day celebration when Sporting Kansas City visited on March 18.
However, the drone shows, created by Fort Worth-based enterprise Sky Elements, have been a particularly powerful tool to grab the imagination and drive fan engagement at Toyota Stadium.
“These shows were part of the conversation I had during my interview process,” Jerome Elenez, who joined FC Dallas as Vice President of Marketing in January 2022, tells Fan XP.
“Our key differentiator is the fact that we are truly an open-air stadium – one of the few for professional sports in Dallas-Fort Worth. FC Dallas President Dan Hunt took a chance with me to do two drone shows last year and that success propelled us into signing a multi-year agreement with Sky Elements.”
The shows typically last about 15 minutes and happen after the end of the game, with the first such display this season taking place under the ‘80s Night’ theme for the game against LA Galaxy on March 4. Further shows are planned on ‘Dino Night’ (April 15 versus Real Salt Lake), ‘Y’all Means All Night’ (June 3 versus Nashville SC), ‘Military Appreciation Night’ (July 1 versus LAFC), ‘Star Wars Night’ (August 26 versus Austin FC) and ‘Kick Childhood Cancer/Superhero Night’ (September 23 versus Columbus).
A Star Wars theme night display also took place last July at Toyota Stadium, where some 250 drones flew into formations of characters, spaceships and other moments from the film franchise, such as Darth Vader, the Millennium Falcon and even an exploding death star.
“The impact has been tremendous,” says Elenez, a former executive at the Dallas Mavericks NBA franchise and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, who also spent nearly two decades at McDonald’s earlier in his career.
“Unlike traditional fireworks shows, 70-80% of the fans stay in the stadium to experience the drone show’s vantage point facing the stadium. Also, we typically incorporate LED pass-outs that are synched with the show and music.”
According to Elenez, the drone shows are helping FC Dallas to stand out in spectacular fashion in a major-league sporting city and a highly competitive space – and the signs are promising.
The opening two FC Dallas home games of the 2023 campaign drew average attendances that were over 18% higher than the average across the 2022 campaign, which itself was the second-best season for crowd figures in the franchise’s history – averaging 16,469 per fixture.
“The drone shows are an amazing differentiator for us,” Elenez adds. “Fans love them, and they allow us to use a blank canvas and really bring our theme nights to life.”
Image credit: FC Dallas
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