A snake it is. The Philadelphia Union unveiled their new mascot at a “hatching” event at the Philadelphia Zoo on Monday afternoon for some of the young fans who helped develop the newest member of the city’s mascot club.
Phang’s introduction was the culmination of a six-month process that enlisted young fans to submit ideas and provide feedback through the design process. Several young fans were on hand for Monday’s event along with Union captain Alejandro Bedoya and the Phillie Phanatic, Franklin, Swoop and The Hawk.
“I’m really glad that the Union finally got a mascot; I’ve been a fan for a couple years now and I’ve always seen the other Philly mascots and thought ‘oh man, I wonder if the Union will ever get one,’” said Kempton Packard, a middle schooler from Phoenixville.
Kempton and his younger sister weren’t surprised that a snake — even one with arms and legs because, according to the backstory, of a mix of human DNA — would end up being the mascot.
When Alli Soowall, who emceed the event, asked the kids what animal they thought would be hatching, all but one said it would be a snake.
That was consistent with what Union vice president of marketing Doug Vosik said the team has seen throughout the design process, which started with some 3,000 kids sending in submissions online and through their schools and shifted to focus groups of 50 children brought in during Union home games.
“Through the first two months of the process it was about 90-plus percent that it was snake, snake, snake,” Vosik said, noting that the specific design and name were then narrowed down through additional focus groups. “Especially for young kids who are already fans they see the logo, they see the badge and of course they say snake so it makes sense.”
The original Phillie Phanatic David Raymond developed the designs based on the responses that were then put back in front of young fans to narrow down to the final product.
“It’s cool to be at this moment to see the kids’ reaction, but it’s also cool to know that all behind the scenes kids crafted and co-created this thing all the way,” Vosik said. “So to see their positive reaction is fantastic.”
Not just the kids attending the event were impressed.
Elizabeth Gonzalez, of Philadelphia, who brought her neighbor’s son along for the event, said she felt like a little kid when Phang popped out of the egg, which as the story goes, was discovered at an ACME and sent to the zoo for study.
“I love it, I love it, it’s so cute,” she said.
The blue, mohawked Phang will make his Talen Energy Stadium debut for the Montreal Impact game on Saturday and in addition to interacting with fans at games will be available for the dozens of charity, school and community events the Union participate in throughout the year.
"We do over 150 local events a year and we haven’t been able to provide a mascot for those events since the club started,” Vosik said. “For a lot of younger fans a lot of the player recognition isn’t there yet, but a mascot they’re going to remember and want to have fun and dance with so it gives us another great element to have with how we interact with the community.”