Empty seats cause problems for WolfPack

TRU’s new athletics director looking to increase game attendance

The “Pack has had a hard time filling seats at games both inside and outside of the TCC so far this semester and last. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

Crowd attendance for WolfPack games have been low and games are often played to half-empty arenas.

Sports are not just about the athletes or coaches who play, but the people who come to watch and support.

Imagine if the Super Bowl was played in an empty stadium or if a boxing match took place in an empty arena, it wouldn’t be as exciting.

The attendance for WolfPack games is not great for most programs, the men’s soccer team had a high attendance this season, but that was largely because of the team having a great season.

It’s hard to measure attendance and the only way one can really judge that is by looking at the amount of people in the stands and the number of empty seats.

Is it a lack of quality product? Bad marketing? Or are people just not interested enough?

New program director Curtis Atkinson was gracious enough to speak with the Omega, he was appointed as WolfPack director at the start of the year after the departure of Ken Olynyk.

Atkinson believes that low attendance is not just a TRU problem but a challenge that all Usports programs face. Atkinson believes it an issue that leaves room for growth.

“As an initial priority, we have to find more ways to engage the campus community – students, faculty, and staff – and then begin to reach out to the broader community,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson made it clear that the product at TRU played no part in the low attendance.

“Our product is great, student-athletes are terrific people to support,” he said.

Atkinson gave some examples of the kind of events that can attract a bigger crowd. He referenced the Crowchild Classic hockey games that took place in Calgary, between Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary.

Atkinson believes there are many other benefits to these types of events, such as bigger media coverage and much-needed exposure for university programs.

“Partnering with student groups, community organizations and aligning with social causes can also be an effective way to get more eyes on our product,” he concluded.

Atkinson also made it clear that strategies to start improving game attendance are underway.

“One of our focuses for this off-season will be to do a full review of our ticket prices, ticket packages and ticket strategy,” he said.

Atkinson also emphasized the need to continue marketing the WolfPack brand in the correct manner.

“With advances in technology, we have to make sure we are executing a marketing strategy that connects with students effectively and connects with the other markets we want to engage,” he said.

Atkinson also acknowledged the role winning plays in attracting a larger audience.

“We have had some very successful teams here, and winning is certainly a part of building the brand and attracting more people to our games,” he said. “We want to consistently compete at a high level. Sustained success is important and winning certainly helps with the spectator experience.”

Game attendance is a hard problem to deal with, especially in a community where people have different likes and interests.

Those associated with the WolfPack program will be hoping that the strategies implemented will lead to larger crowds attending sports events at TRU. They hope that these strategies will help the games to become more of a spectacle as well.