The 18-year-old monkey is finally off Tim Hinchey’s back.
It was personal to the Colorado Rapids team president that the team never had a shirt sponsor since entering MLS back in 1996, despite countless, frustrating and ultimately failed attempts to acquire one. On Thursday, however, that all changed.
The Rapids inked Dallas technology company Ciao Telecom to a five-year contract as the club’s first-ever shirt sponsor.
“It’s been a major initiative and objective and goal to me personally and obviously the club and ownership,” Hinchey told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Thursday. “It’s been challenging for a variety of reasons.”
When he formally became Rapids team president in December 2011, Hinchey immediately identified landing a shirt sponsor as his top priority. He publicly and privately called it one of the most challenging tasks of his decades-long career as a sports executive.
But like the long, winding road to get to today’s announcement, this final leg had plenty of trips and hurdles, as well.
In February, Hinchey flew to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for a lunch meeting with Ciao representatives. The meeting went well – Hinchey said he felt he had an agreement done by its conclusion – but by the time lunch was finished, Hinchey had missed his flight to Houston (the Rapids were holding preseason training in Houston at the time). So the team president was forced to rent a car and drive four-and-a-half hours to Houston to meet up with the team.
“It feels a lot better now [that we have a deal],” Hinchey said.
Within a few weeks of first talking in early February, Hinchey and Ciao Telecom had a handshake deal. But both sides reconsidered, Ciao first, then the Rapids, further drawing out an already drawn-out process. But the two sides, after several additional meetings, finally came to a formal agreement Monday on a deal that The Denver Post reports will pay the Rapids $2 million a year. Hinchey went out of his way to credit team ownership for standing behind the club during the lengthy search.
“First and foremost, I think it’s a massive boost to the credibility of where our group [is],” Hinchey said. “[Ownership] believe in us. This hopefully is just another indication that we’re on the road to success.”
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With the jersey sponsorship checked off Hinchey’s to-do list, what’s the next priority for the 2010 MLS Cup winners? Consistently filling the stands to capacity, he said.
“My next desire is really to see us in a position where we have a fortress 17 times a year, so that’s probably my next goal,” Hinchey said. “It’s continuing to just grow this club professionally.”
When the Rapids jog out onto Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face the LA Galaxy on Saturday night (9 pm ET, MLS Live) with the big embroidered “Ciao” on their jerseys, there’s little doubt that Hinchey will be quietly – or maybe not so quietly – smiling from his suite, finally able to tangibly see the fruits of years of his, and his club’s, hard work come to life.
“It’s a credit to the fan base that people want to align with us,” Hinchey said. “Hopefully it’s just progress. Hopefully people realize there’s decent people now in the club, running the club and that ownership is supporting the club. Hopefully everyone feels good about this.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.