published Friday, June 13th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club hopes to build off World Cup energy

  • photo
    -Chattanooga head coach Sean McDaniel is seen on the right in this file photo.
    Photo by Robin Rudd /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Big River Grille marketing manager Heather Jenkins remembers the buzz surrounding the FIFA World Cup in 2010, and how it helped the company. She hopes there will be an increased following this time around.

The restaurant is doing its part to promote the World Cup, which started Thursday in Brazil with the host nation's team defeating Croatia 3-1. Big River has partnered with the Chattanooga Football Club to provide one of many venues to watch the events.

"The way the games are, you have them going on in the day and the evening, and you definitely see an influx of people," Jenkins said. "The atmosphere is great; even guests walking in the restaurant get involved. I'm happy to see how much soccer has grown in the Chattanooga community."

The CFC soccer teams have a busy weekend ahead of themselves. The women (2-3) will host a match at 7:30 tonight against Alabama FC -- following the Tennessee-Georgia girls' all-star match at Finley Stadiuim at 4. The CFC men (3-2-1, 2-1-1) will host the Georgia Revolution at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and the CFC women will visit their Revolution counterparts Sunday.

The United States will begin World Cup pool play Monday in Group G against Ghana at 6.

CFC general manager Sean McDaniel recognizes the opportunity his clubs have to add extra fans in the seats over the next few weeks. Four seasons ago, he estimated that they brought in "1,000-2,000" additional fans due to the World Cup excitement.

"Based on what we did four years ago, we hope we'll be able to capture the casual fan," McDaniel said. "You can't help but turn on the TV and see the World Cup all over. We understand that some of that crowd was due to the newness of our program, but we can't help but think that the World Cup should create that same type of interest."

Big River Grille will have happy-hour prices during the World Cup, with anyone wearing a CFC jersey or polo getting a 15 percent discount. Jefferson's, the official site of the American Outlaws, will be showing all of the matches as well in special rooms they have reserved, with manager Kyle Wood considering a "soccer-themed" drink later in the event.

"I'm very creative, so we'll see what happens with that," Wood said.

Jefferson's partnership with the Outlaws has helped Wood further appreciate the sport in general.

"There are definitely fun times when they're here," he said. "It brings out the competitive spirit, and other fans are more into it and getting real excited for the game.

"Soccer isn't as popular in the United States, but you're able to get a grasp of the worldwide excitement during the World Cup."

CFC brands itself with the label "World's Game -- Our Team." Of course, success on the pitch with the increased crowds could play a part in helping crowds for future matches and in future years.

"It's free publicity in that we now have World Cup fever generated in the sport of soccer in the community, and when people recognize that the World Cup is going on, then they realize we have a team in Chattanooga," McDaniel said. "It's why we worked so hard to schedule a bulk of our matches at home this time of year, because if you can be successful on the field and have the World Cup generate excitement in the sport, that could be a recipe for success."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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