Location. The league insists that the team call itself the "Los Angeles Heat." In reality, the club plays in Torrance, practices in Manhattan Beach, has its headquarters in Redondo Beach and would like to play some of its games in Orange County, which has a larger youth market. In fact, some of the owners have said they would like to move the team to South Orange County as early as next season, if attendance and revenues in the South Bay don't improve. League officials are split on such a move.
Exposure. There are nearly 90 radio stations in the Los Angeles market. None wanted to broadcast Heat games live. The Heat was upstaged when cable rights were negotiated last spring. It is a 15-minute drive to the offices of Prime Ticket from West Torrance High, but it is the Emperors in Redlands who can be seen on Prime Ticket. Fracisco said the Heat is considering showing its final four home games on tape delay on a Torrance cable company if it is not too costly.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 15, 1990 South Bay Edition Sports Part C Page 17 Column 2 Zones Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Heat founders--Friday's South Bay sports section reported that Bill Buxton was one of the founders of Los Angeles Heat Inc., when in fact it was Roland Martin. The name of another founder, Mike Hogue, was also omitted.
The Heat has advertised in advance of some of its games in local newspapers, including The Times, but the team's advertising budget is only $30,000. A one-time, quarter-page advertisement in the Times that would run only in the Westside, the South Bay and Long Beach costs about $4,000 without contract discounts. The Heat plays a 10-game schedule, which would require $40,000 for advertising in just one publication.
Newspapers, at first cool to the Heat, have stepped up coverage during the summer. Both The Times' zoned edition and the South Bay Daily Breeze have sent reporters to cover some games live. The Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion, which has a tremendous soccer following, has also done some stories on the team, but with mixed results. After the Heat dropped its home opener, 1-0, to the Colorado Foxes, La Opinion charged that the Heat couldn't defeat a handicapped team from El Salvador.
\o7 Stadium. \f7 Playing on a high school football field instead of in a stadium also tarnishes the team's professional image. Said APSL secretary Arthur Dixon: "Over the years, the L.A. Heat seemed that they had very steady increases in their attendance. But when they got away (from El Camino), they seemed to lose all their fan support."
The cost of playing at El Camino is prohibitive, Heat officials say.
"I can run an entire season at West High for the cost of one game at El Camino," Fracisco said. The team's season opener at 12,000-seat Murdock Stadium on April 13 drew 500 fans and cost more than $12,000, she said.
Said co-owner Martin: "In smaller cities like Albuquerque, for example, they have nothing going on. They can draw six or seven thousand people to a game. But here in L.A., it is the most competitive market in the world."
Fracisco agreed: "I love the atmosphere at El Camino, but, realistically, playing there is down the tubes. I'd rather play at West High (because it is inexpensive) rather than let this team (fail)."
Club owners have considered building their own stadium or leasing an existing one. Three sites have been mentioned: the old Aviation High School football field in Redondo Beach, a former warehouse site at Wilson Park in central Torrance and a sinkhole behind a fast-food restaurant next to Bishop Montgomery High School in west Torrance. But no formal proposals have been made to officials in either city.
Martin said settling the stadium issue is crucial to building attendance.
"Let's face it," he said. "Nobody will build a stadium for the Heat. (The owners) keep (the idea of building a stadium) around, but we just don't know what to do about it."
\o7 Audience. \f7 The American perception, according to a recent edition of the television news program Nightline, is that soccer games are boring. ESPN Senior Vice President Loren Matthews told the Times recently that "the sport suffers from the image of a very patient, low-scoring game where you go into a defensive shell with a 1-0 lead."
Americans want scoring, Matthews said--lots of it. Heat management has tried, with little success, to give its fans what they want.
"We want to try to score more goals," said Martin, who came up through AYSO ranks in Torrance. "That's entertainment, scoring. That's what we have to do to draw a crowd."
Despite those attempts, which included signing several high-profile players, the Heat averages two goals a game and allows 1.7.
Said Ajemian, an Armenian who played soccer as a boy in Syria: "To Americans, the bigger the numbers, the better. . . . To attract a following, we need to come up with a gimmick (like more scoring)."
The league bases its standings on a combination of wins and numbers of goals scored. Ajemian would like the APSL to add a bonus system that pays players to score.