UVM Focuses on Fan Attendance

Picture the scene at the last Men’s Hockey game that you attended against nationally ranked University of New Hampshire: Loud chants of “U-N-H! U-N-H!” within the confines of a sold-out Gutterson arena.

You checked your ears to make sure what you were hearing was correct, and much to your dismay it was. Coming from a sea of loyalty, devotion, pride and spirit were these chants of visiting fans rooting for the visiting team. The 150 UNH faithful out-cheered the 3500 UVM fans en route to a 10-0 victory. The UVM Athletic Marketing Department headed by Krista Balogh is looking to change all of this.

She cannot change the score to the hockey games, but will make an attempt to increase the spirit and enthusiasm of fans of UVM athletics at upcoming home games. Balough sees things such as the Kitty and Charlie Catamount Club as an excellent way to get students involved in fan participation.

“We are looking for people to join the Kitty and Charlie Catamount Club where they would be volunteering to wear the costumes during the games,” said Balogh.

“These students would attend those games for free and possibly even those games that they are not wearing the costume.”

Balough is looking to organize a “spirit” group of students to attend games, and lead positive cheers throughout the game. This group of 10-15 students would wear spirit tee-shirts and would rally fans together.They would also receive comp passes for all the home games of that sport for the season.

“Fan support is important and it’s an obvious advantage when trying to decide the outcome of a game when you have it,” said junior Andy Miller. “The team will play up to the level that the fans bring them to.”

“[Support from fans] is just great for the team,” said Men’s Soccer player Ethan Hutchins.”You can really tell the difference between home and away games. The attitude is so much more positive at home, which works to our benefit. Our crowd is awesome and they really help us all throughout our games. Great fans are crucial.”

One of the challenges facing the attendance problem is the price of admission to attend games. For example: You go to the women’s soccer game on Friday and spend $3 to get in and then you spend another $5 for the men’s hockey game on Saturday. Now you only carry your wallet to hold your Price Chopper card and what’s left of your ID.

The athletic department is proposing the idea of tacking on an extra $100 to the price of tuition for UVM which would make a student ID a season ticket to every game played all year long. No money exchange and it is dramatically cheaper than paying for every home game throughout the year.

Balogh also feels that it is very important to increase attendance at all UVM athletic games. Retaining those students who are attending games, and to create a higher level of desire to attend games, is important. Krista is working on many promotions with companies like Stowe Mountain Resort and a “Reach for the Seat” by Heritage Ford and Toyota which involves a ticket placed under a pre-selected seat that the winner could exchange for a gift basket containing gift certificates from local companies and shops.

Other promotions will include tee shirt giveaways and shoot-outs at basketball games. These will accompany the existing promotions such as the Zachary’s Pizza giveaway to a randomly selected row at hockey, basketball and soccer games.

The athletic marketing department will look to increase an overall awareness of athletic events by using an old Student Government Association announcement board located in the Billings Student Center to announce upcoming games and events.

They will also look to utilize the idle time in between movies and programs on the UVM TV channel with a ticker of future games.

A key element to this plan, Balogh feels, is the lack of participation and awareness of the pep band. Many people are unacquainted to the benefits of a band at a hockey game that can set a mood during a game.

Part of the problem with that is that the band is experiencing low turnouts for tryouts and participation in the band. Marketing hopes to bring musicians of all kinds to the pep band. Participation by students will lead to a higher level of spirit, and if people know that they have a friend in the band, it will increase the chances that thet would attend that hockey game.

But will all this effort in increasing attendance and spirit really change a play on the field, court, or ice? Not necessarily, but take the 2001-2002 Men’s Basketball team which won the regular season America East title.

The team’s success brought in more fans which potentially brought them up to a higher level because they felt the support of their fans, peers, classmates and many others behind them.

If all goes according to plan, many of these ideas and plans will have already taken place. If you have any questions or would like to get involved with the Charlie and Kitty Catamount Club, start a spirit group or join the pep band,