The Voice of 12

Posted Dec 22, 2013

The Seahawks already have the loudest fan base in all of professional sports. But the 12th Man now has a voice as well in the game-day experience with the establishment of the President’s Fan Advisory Council.

The 12th Man already is the loudest crowd in the wide world of sports, having set and then re-set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for “loudest crowd cheer” in this season where there has been so much to cheer about.

But the Seahawks’ boisterous fan base, which turns CenturyLink Field into a noise factory on game days, now has a voice, as well.

Jon Baer: From Raider love, to Seahawks Fan Council

If Jon Baer grew up a fan of the Raiders – which he did – why he is on the President’s Fan Advisory Council for the Seahawks?

Baer’s explanation of this seemingly contradictory fact is a pretty good indication of why he was among the 12 fans selected from more than 2,000 applications for the Seahawks’ first Fan Council that was initiated this season by President Peter McLoughlin.

“Back when Bo Jackson was around, I was a Raiders fan,” said Baer, who operates All New Again, a restoration company. “I was always a Seahawks fan No. 1, but I always just loved the Raiders. But I think what happened was as I matured and got into my teens and got into my early adulthood. I just started realizing what a passion the Seahawks really had for Washington.

“Nobody ever heard of the Seahawks. People think we’re this town out in the middle of Alaska. They never really understood what the Seahawks were. But really, what they were was just a team trying to get better, and our community is just a great community and there’s just so much more to Seattle than what people realize. I just think it got in my blood. I think it was here’s a team that’s never gone anywhere, that has gotten close, but they have the heart and soul of somebody that wants to get there that just needs the right people around them.”

The first step in Baer’s reverse-Raider loyalties was Paul Allen purchasing the team.

“I love Paul Allen,” he said.

Allen’s ownership led to the arrival of Mike Holmgren, the coach during the most-successful five-season run in franchise history (2003-07); and now Pete Carroll, who has the Seahawks on the verge of capturing its second NFC West title and already has qualified for the playoffs for the third time in his four seasons as coach.

“I like where the chemistry has gone,” Baer said. “And when you have the right chemistry and the right leadership in place, which we do; and you have the right talent, which we do; you know what, you have a helluva shot at winning it all.”

That’s the purpose of the President’s Fan Advisory Council that was created this season by Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin – to give the fans a voice in improving the game-day experience, and all other matters 12.

The Council consists of – what else – 12 fans who were selected from more than 2,000 applicants.

“I just think it’s a good idea to hear what your customer has to say,” McLoughlin said. “When we have more than 67,000 Seahawks fans coming to each game it’s hard to have one-on-one contact with all of them. I read our fan feedback on our website every morning, where a lot of fans tell us what they’re feeling and give us observations that way.

“It led me to believe, why not have more of a personal contact?”

Coming up with 12 from all those interested in being on the Council was not an easy task. Every application was reviewed before arriving at a group of finalists. And that first group of 12 wasn’t even final.

“The process wasn’t a quick one,” Chief Operating Officer Chuck Arnold said. “Once things got narrowed down, we started to share our opinions on why we thought one was worthy or why we thought one would be a better candidate than the other.

“So we took people off and added people as we went through the process.”

What they arrived at was a cross section of everything 12 – members from Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island, but also Bellingham and Chelan; three females and nine males; younger fans and not-as-young fans; first- and second-generation fans, some of whom are nurturing the third generation of 12.

“We wanted a good representation of our fan base, that had a passion for the team, for the experience of going to games, for their experience of being a season-ticket holder,” Arnold said. “So this is a good way for us to hear different voices and maybe look at things through the lens of a season-ticket holder and not necessarily our lens and our perception.”   

The Council has had one meeting, and another is scheduled for January.

“I was just really impressed by the people on the Council,” McLoughlin said. “They were obviously big fans of the Seahawks, all season-ticket holders – some for many, many years, some for fewer years. We got some really good feedback, and we acted upon one thing while in the meeting.”

That initial meeting generated opening the stadium to all fans three hours before kickoff, at the suggestion of Council member Jon Baer. Early entry already was in place for suite holders and club-seat holders.

“Jon is a charter-seat holder and he made the point that he uses his charter seats to entertain his customers and clients,” McLoughlin said. “So I said, ‘OK, we’re making the change right now. We’re going to open the gates three hours in advance for everybody.’

“That was a very simple suggestion and a very simple thing to act upon.”

It didn’t hurt that Baer came armed with the R.O.I. argument. R.O.I.? Return on Investment.

“I told Peter, ‘Look, you’re obviously a businessman, I’m a businessman, so what’s the best R.O.I.?” Baer said. “He kind of looked at me like, ‘Damn, where’d you get that term?’ It’s a term businessmen use.”

Baer then gave McLoughlin and the other Seahawks employees in the meeting a view from the outside on game day, with fans waiting to get into CenturyLink Field spending their money with outside vendors. Inside the stadium, that money goes to stadium vendors.

“Peter looked at me and he’s like, ‘Done,’ ” Baer said.

Cindy Shultz: The term driven doesn’t do justice to her dedication

There’s dedication to a cause, and then there’s what Cindy Shultz does to be part of the President’s Fan Advisory Council for the Seahawks.

Shultz lives in Holden Village, once a mining town and now a Lutheran ministry community tucked away in the Cascade Mountains near Chelan. So her trip to the Council’s first meeting went something like this:

“When I leave Holden Village, I take a school bus that we operate to take us down to Lake Chelan,” Shultz said. “It’s 10 miles. But it takes about 40 minutes because it’s a 2,000-foot elevation gain and it’s a dirt road that has nine switchbacks.

“The boat picks us up, and then it’s either a one-hour or two-hour trip on the boat, depending on whether you’re on the express boat or the regular boat. Then it’s about a four-hour drive (to Virginia Mason Athletic Center).”  

“That’s dedication,” Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin said. Added Chief Operations Office Chuck Arnold, “Just the effort that she makes to be part of this is fantastic. She’s committed to it.”

Did Shultz know what she was getting into? “I guess when I applied, I didn’t really expect to be selected,” she said. “I knew it was probably a longshot. But my husband saw the email and said, ‘You should apply. You’d be really good for this.’ ”

From Chris Shultz’s lips, to Cindy Shultz’s application, to a spot on the 12-member Council.

Shultz and her husband actually moved to Southern California for 12 years, and they were at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the Seahawks’ loss to the Raiders in the 1983 AFC Championship game.

“I just love the Seahawks,” she said. “It means a lot to me, and to be a part of the Fan Council this season is pretty cool. This is the season we’ve been waiting for almost all my life.”

And, yes, the immediacy of the suggest-and-they-will-act response only reinforced that the purpose of the Council is not figurehead but figuring out solutions.

“Why not get a different perception from the people that are really supporting the team,” Baer said. “Those are people like myself. So why not put us in there where we can make a difference.”

McLoughlin agrees. “Frankly, I’m anxious for a little more regular interaction with the Fan Council,” he said.

Here’s a closer look at the Council:

Jairo Garcia, Seattle – Garcia says Football Sundays are “like Christmas Day for me.” And, like any holiday, he spends them with family and friends.

Jody Vincent, Bellingham – She participated in fan advisory surveys after games the past three seasons, which is one reason Vincent thought she would make a good member of the Council. The selection committee agreed.

Paul Wilde, Bothell – He got a jump on the process by participating in Seahawks fan groups at Microsoft, which gave Wilde a “finger on the pulse” with fan interests as well as a technical background to help with suggestions to improve in-stadium experience. He’s also grooming the next generation of 12 in his 6-year-old son.

Jon Baer, Mill Creek – A Washington native, the idea to open the stadium an hour earlier on game day is just the tip of his suggestions for improving the fans’ game-day experience.

Cindy Shultz, Chelan – A fan since 1976, Shultz’s 12-ness can be measured on her odometer because of the distance she travels to attend games and Council meetings.

Mark Freise, Everett – He is a second-generation 12, as his father was a season-ticket holder starting in 1977. Freise now has six season tickets and his son began attending games this season.

Jay Prince, Mercer Island – Another second-generation 12, Price took over the season-ticket account from his father when the new stadium opened in 2002. Now, father, son and grandson attend games together.

Allen Urness, Seattle – Urness’ emphasis is a common theme among Council members – improving fan enjoyment of games, without some fans spoiling the experience for others.

Robert Freytag, Bellevue – The father of 4- and 6-year-old sons, his goal is to improve the game-day experience for the younger fans, and the shorter attention span that comes with them.

Jill Goldman, Mukilteo – Also a season-ticket holder for University of Washington football games, Goldman’s concerns also are centered on improving the in-game fan experience by not allowing the behavior of a few to be a distraction for many.

Taylor Clark, Bothell – He has a lofty goal. “Every fan should walk away from the game saying, ‘That was the best experience of my life!’ ” said Clark, who added, “Being a Hawks fan is a lifestyle and not just a hobby.” Maybe his goal is not so lofty, after all.

Michael DeVries, Seattle – DeVries provides perhaps the best summary of what the Fan Council is all about by offering, “We are the best fans in the NFL and we want to be for a very, very long time.”