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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

December 11, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Will Washington men’s basketball fans return to Alaska Airlines Arena?

There was a time not so long ago when Washington men's basketball games were routinely standing-room only events. (Photo credit: GoHuskies.com)

There was a time not so long ago when Washington men’s basketball games were routinely standing-room only events. (Photo credit: GoHuskies.com)

Our story for Thursday’s newspaper touched on the slumping attendance at Alaska Airlines Arena despite the unexpected success of the 17th-ranked Huskies.

Here’s a look at the declining average attendance at Washington home games the past five seasons.

Season Games Average
2010-11 16 9,650
2011-12 20 8,765
2012-13 18 7,937
2013-14 18 6,582
2014-15 2 4,548

Obviously, the 2014-15 average is a small sample size given UW has played just two games. However, the low turnouts have been somewhat alarming. Just 2,898 witnessed the season opener against South Carolina State and 6,199 were on hand for Sunday’s 49-36 win over then-No.13 San Diego State.

This is a hot-button issue with a lot of Husky fans. Several factors have led to the apathy surrounding UW basketball starting with a three-year NCAA tournament drought and two mediocre seasons. Other fans have complained about a dampened game-day experience, the lack of local players on the roster, high ticket and parking prices and late starts.

Here’s coach Lorenzo Romar’s take: “We can only do our part. That’s all we can do. We are fortunate in that we have not lost a game and I think we play an exciting brand of basketball. … I know what our fans are capable of. When that place is full and it’s rocking they make it very, very difficult on the opposition. We’ve seen what it looks like in there. It’s a great feeling for all of our players. They talk about it when the place is full and it’s a great place to play.”

And here’s quotes from an interview with new Washington senior associate athletic director Lance Lopes, who spent the previous 13 years as the Seahawks’ senior vice president and general counsel before joining UW in February.

(On low turnouts for nonconference games) “Historically Washington basketball has had difficulty getting the attention in November and December in this market even (going) back to the better teams. The nonconference schedule was always hit or miss in terms of getting people interested. And we see that again this year. Based on what’s happen the last few years it’s been an uphill battle for us to get people to pay attention to the start that our team has had. While San Diego State is a really good basketball team they don’t have the pedigree that casual basketball fans might find obvious. That’s been a challenge to get people to understand a 6-0 Washington basketball team is taking on a really fine basketball team. You have to be really in tuned to college basketball to know that. Those fans will be there. But the casual fans we need to work on awareness particularly at this time of year when you’re still in football season. It’s just hard to get people to start thinking about basketball until after the year and the Pac-12 schedule gets going.

(On drawing 2,898 for the last home game) “We went out with our season ticket campaign this fall or this summer actually so we had a pretty good sense of what our ticket sales was going to look like. Overall from the university standpoint our sales are strong across all of our sports. Volleyball just set a record the other night. So we’re seeing really great attendance at our events. Basketball it’s pretty clear in this community since I’ve been here, this community supports success. They have across any team. It’s remarkable whether it be baseball or football. The fans are there. The one thing we have to have to more of is success. I’m confident if the team delivers on the court all of those fans will be back, but right now we’ve been in a period of time here over the last few years where we haven’t been as good as we’d hope. Our fans are not embracing the product the way that we think they will when we get back to winning.

(On if UW should do any promotions to draw more fans) “We have a bunch of different that we do, but at a university you don’t have quite the budget that you do in professional sports to do some of the campaigns that you see in certain markets. But we do try to come up with different ideas in promotion. Where it really centers is around our Dawg Pack and around our student section. That’s where we really struggle at this time of year when school is out when we have those games when the students are no longer on campus. The Dawg Pack creates so much of the energy in the building in that lower bowl and when those kids are on break – and it’s the case for any school – it makes those games around the holiday times tough. But we do focus on promotion and we think about ways to drive attendance and we’re going to put a major emphasis behind the Washington State game. Our Pac-12 opener is one that we’re going to put a tremendous amount of energy and focus on to get the building full.”

(On the Seahawks’ 12th Man) “There’s never a secret sauce but I would say the best way for it to happen is organically. If you look back at what happened over there, that New York Giants game in (2010) when they had the 8-10 false starts. They (the fans) basically dictated the outcome of that game when (Jay) Feely missed all those field goals. Truly the fans in effect won that football game that day because the Giants probably were the better team and they kept going backwards with the false starts and the kicker kept missing kicks. From that moment on that stadium really became the place that it is now. And that was organic. That wasn’t anything that the team did. That wasn’t anything that was generated by the front office or any of that. That was something that just happened. And when you look at the great traditions around Husky football and Captain Husky and all of those sorts of things, somebody came up with an idea that caught on. What you hope is that you can have that happen and you can support it and put resources behind it like the Seahawks have done. They’ve done a bunch of things to make that crowd more engaged and what have you. That’s why all of the other teams around the league can’t do what the Seahawks are doing. There’s no secret to it. The fans have to want to do it. And then if they’re willing to do it and if they have that sort of spark, you can do things to facilitate it and build on it. So from a Husky perspective, we’re really focusing hard on our student section to make sure they have the tools to do the things that students do at basketball games. To have fun and be impactful. Then we’ll try to build off of those. But there’s no secret. You hope things happen organically.”

(On if Alaska Airlines Arena security is discouraging Dawg Pack fans from booing the opposing team) “That’s not accurate at all. We would not discourage somebody. What we would discourage is what I would call comments towards individuals that were over the line if you will. But certainly we would hope that our student section would be very vocal and would focus a lot of their attention on the opponent and who’s in town and make sure they know that they’re playing in a difficult place.”

(On season-ticket sales) “Our season ticket numbers right now were at about 3,300. That is the lowest we’ve had in quite some time. … We were steady through 2010-11. After 2011, the last three years we see the steady decline in sales.”

(On season-ticket sales at the peak) “That number was 6,200 in 2010-11. We’ve got some work to do to get fans back into the building.”

(On fans returning) “We’re going to have to show some sustained success. It’s like any team, the fans want to really believe it. They want to make sure that it’s real. But we have every confidence that when we start playing better our fans will be there for us.”

 

 

 

Comments | More in Lorenzo Romar, News, Notes | Topics: Lance Lopes

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