When United Football League commissioner Michael Huyghue was in Las Vegas last month, he predicted as many as 20,000 fans could attend the Locomotives' 2010 season opener at Sam Boyd Stadium.
"I believe that's a realistic number," Huyghue said at the time.
It's Lou Rosenberg's job to make the commissioner look good on his boast.
Rosenberg is the Locos' director of business management, and with the season opener four days away, Rosenberg has used every marketing avenue to get people out to the 8 p.m. game with Florida. The game is a rematch of last year's inaugural UFL championship game, won by Las Vegas 20-17 in overtime.
"We started around July 1, and every day we've been out somewhere selling," Rosenberg said of the team's marketing efforts, which include traditional media such as outdoor billboards, radio and newspaper ads, along with not-so-traditional methods such as promoting the team at Cox Pavilion during the NBA Summer League. "We're building an awareness."
All games will air on KWWN (AM 1100, FM 98.9). Coach Jim Fassel has a weekly show Sundays on KTNV-TV (Channel 13). The team is using social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to keep fans up to date. Players and coaches have made appearances throughout Clark County.
"After the championship, the team disappeared and was gone for five months," Rosenberg said. "We were out of sight, out of mind. We've had to work hard to make that up."
According to Rosenberg, the Locos have sold about 600 season tickets. However, there are more than 11,000 seats distributed for Saturday's game, approximately 8,000 of which have been paid for. That's a dramatic departure from last year, when the Locos gave away tens of thousands of tickets in hopes of getting someone to show up.
Las Vegas led the UFL in attendance last year, averaging 13,225 for three home games. However, most fans who attended got in for free.
"We're not giving away our product anymore," Rosenberg said. "Sure, there are comps, but they're for our corporate partners, radio giveaways, things like that. A ticket only costs $15 and that includes parking, which we think is a pretty good deal."
Rosenberg said while the season ticket sales numbers aren't great, they're up 10 percent from last year. In addition, he said the marketing efforts aren't about driving season tickets at this point.
"We've only got four (home) games, and what we're doing is selling it as four separate one-night special events," he said. "Las Vegas is a special-event town, and we thought that was the way to approach it."
Rosenberg said selling corporate sponsorships has been tougher than selling tickets.
"It's not just the economy," he said of trying to lure businesses to purchase packages for a minimum of $25,000. "We're fighting the past. We're trying to convince them that we're not like the failed franchises of the past, the XFL, the arena league. I won't lie to you, it's a tough sell. But what we're asking them to do is come in and test the water, and we're starting to get some positive response."
As part of opening night, there will be a halftime concert featuring rock band Sugar Ray. The Locos are also planning to have a "UFL Experience" in the parking lot that will have interactive activities, live bands and contests. The UFL Experience will be part of all four home games.
"From a marketing perspective, this game on Saturday is like our Super Bowl," he said. "We've got one shot to make a positive impression, and from the moment someone drives into the parking lot to the time they leave, we want them to feel like they're appreciated and having a good time."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.