Athletic department attempts to raise attendance, students carry the cost

Claire Elliott operates the ticket sales booth for a women’s soccer match against Simon Fraser University at Harrington Field on Saturday, Oct. 19. // Photo by Alex Moreno

By Conor Wilson

What is $5 to a student who is $10,000 to $20,000 in debt? 

It costs five dollars for a ticket to a single sports game for a student. According to Western’s athletic department website, that’s only $3 less than the cost for general admission.

Of the eleven full-time members of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, only Western charges its students for home games, according to each school’s respective athletic department pages. 

“Different departments have different business models and a lot of times, universities where it comes off the students don’t pay for games, those fees are built into their student fees and here those aren’t,” said Nicole Ebersole, director of marketing and events for Western’s athletic department.

According to the Western’s student business office website, none of the eight listed fees associated with student tuition cover game expenses. 

Ebersole said she is working on other ways of enticing students to attend games, which she said can be difficult due to the perception of a monetary barrier. 

“This year we have fanny packs, sunglasses, hats, coupons and a bunch of different things that we tie in,” Ebersole said. “There’s also businesses in the community that work with us to have discounts on top of that. That’s our biggest selling point for students because we know that we don’t have the face that our tickets are free.”

Of the seven home games Western’s volleyball team has played this quarter, its most attended game was during a matchup against Central Washington University –– the Saturday of move-in weekend –– when student admission was free. 

Jessie Phillips, ticket manager for the Western athletic department, said that team performance and scheduling are also factors that influence game day attendance.

“There’s a direct correlation with attendance and winning or not winning,” Phillips said. “Big games stir students, excitement. Big games like the Central game, the [Seattle Pacific University] game students will rally and go to those.”

Phillips said the GNAC’s scheduling often conflicts with Western’s academic scheduling.

“Our biggest [basketball] game of the season, historically, is going to be Thursday, Jan. 2, and classes don’t start until the seventh,” Phillips said. “The GNAC and how they schedule games really affects [us]. I don’t think too many students are going to come back the day after New Year’s a week before classes start to see a basketball game.”

Another factor of scheduling is burnout due to amount of games.

“Kids don’t want to go to twenty games a year,” Phillips said. “They want to go to maybe five or six.The die-hard fans will go but to get that gym packed, it’s got to be more than a game against a no-name team.”

Despite the success this quarter for Western’s three big fall sports, Phillips said ticket sales have remained relatively consistent since last year.

“[Men’s soccer] ticket sales have gone up a little bit, women’s soccer is pretty straight across the board from year to year,” Phillips said. “Volleyball coming off the heels of last year’s second place finish in NCAA division II, it’s [ticket sales] are probably a little bit higher than last year, but not a ton.”

To address these issues, Ebersole said her and her colleagues have started a campus engagement and collaborations committee. One of its main goals is to get students more engaged in campus events. 

“One thing we started last year was we invited AS clubs to sign up and table at a game and promote an event that they have upcoming,” Ebersole said. “Almost every game after that we had clubs coming in and promoting events that they had, telling people about themselves and creating a platform where we have a stable audience.”

Ebersole said several clubs have reached out, including LGBTQ+ and domestic violence awareness groups. Allowing different clubs to promote themselves is one way Ebersole said she hopes to unite the student body, and all the community has to offer.“We’re not only focusing on games, but how we’re tying in campus events and initiatives,” Ebersole said. “It’s about being a community and supporting Western, having a place where you can fight for your team and really feel part of the student body and part of a campus community.”

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