PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC has been a club on the move, with five of their last seven games on the road. Yet fans have found ways to show support no matter where the club is playing.
The Rising return home Saturday to take on the Tacoma Defiance in their regular season finale.
For away matches, the Rising organization hosts official watch parties, giving fans a chance to gather, support the team and create the kind of atmosphere they enjoy at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex when the team is at home.
“It’s like a mini home game,” said Bryan Kim, Rising premium sales manager. “Especially when the team is doing well, the noise of the watch party rings through the whole restaurant, bar. Typically, we get anywhere from 50 to over 100 fans.”
The crowds tend to be smaller when the match is not far away, Kim said, because many Rising fans are willing to travel for those games.
The watch parties are an idea the team committed to even during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic to support local restaurants and treat fans. When restaurants could not host the watch parties, the team offered takeaway specials as a way to support them.
The location of the watch parties changes every week, from bars closer to the stadium such as Wicked BBS to venues in downtown Phoenix like The Churchill, which features bars and eateries around an open-air common area lined with big-screen televisions.
“Phoenix Rising’s bar network partners are everyday season ticket members,” Kim said. “There is no extra commitment from them. We want to be able to help the local restaurants around the Valley, while also being able to connect our fans together around Arizona.”
The businesses that take part in these watch parties participate in Pub 2 Pitch, a service that the Rising offer to shuttle people for free from the bar to the stadium and back.
“It’s great to work with the Rising ,” said Chris Mancini, a manager at R.T. O’Sullivans. “Anything to get business in is big for us.”
The process to plan the parties begins when the club receives the official schedule.
“Each bar network location that joined for the season selects dates once the schedule is released,” Kim said. “From there, we make sure to get all info needed from our bar network partners, such as food and drink specials offered, and any prizes they plan on raffling off such as gift cards, suite tickets to a match, etcetera.”
Once all the final details are squared away, the fans get to enjoy the rewards of it and support the team no matter where it is playing.
“I have not been to many of these watch parties, but I’m grateful they do it,” said Nick Scham, a Rising fan. “I get to have a good time with a group of fans and support the club I love. What more can I ask for?”
The atmosphere fans create at the parties builds the kind of enthusiasm they experience at the games – even if the team can’t actually hear it.
“Only in soccer will you get fans breaking out in chants in the middle of the game, regardless of if they’re in the south end at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex or at a watch party with other Rising fans,” Kim said.