UVA Athletics needs to find a way to fill Scott Stadium: Some ideas

uva scott stadium
Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

The announced attendance at Scott Stadium for Saturday’s Power 5 matchup between UVA and Illinois was 36,036, which was almost certainly generous, but let’s go with it.

That’s roughly 25,000 empties, and yes, it didn’t help that the ACC and ESPN set an 11 a.m. kickoff, meaning we had to get up at the crack of dawn to get there, but then, that doesn’t explain the 42,000 and change that we had the previous weekend for the night game with William & Mary.

Word is that the folks in the athletics department are frustrated with the fan base for not supporting the football program, but then, this is the same fan base that fights amongst themselves for tickets to JPJ, and put roughly 36,036 in US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis for the basketball national championship game, and another 8,000 to 10,000 or so in JPJ to watch the game on the big screen, a couple of years back.

I have experience – in a now almost distant past – in running an events business, so I’m speaking with some degree of knowledge here.

Tickets to an event are like hotel rooms. You can’t rent a hotel room that’s empty on Thursday on Friday or next week, unlike, say, a retailer who doesn’t sell an item off the shelf on Thursday, who can sell it on Friday, next week, next month, if it’s not a perishable.

Same for a ticket to an event. Once the event is over, nobody is buying the ticket tomorrow or next week or next month.

This is how websites like Priceline work to marry travelers and hotels. If the room normally goes for $119 a night, but there’s no demand at $119, the algorithm checks to see if there might be demand at $89, or $79, or lower or higher.

I’m not suggesting UVA Athletics go the algorithm route, though … hmmm. Maybe.

I’m thinking a little simpler, easier. If there’s no demand for UVA-Illinois at $45, $50, what about offering some kind of discount, maybe incentives – free hot dogs, maybe a hat or T-shirt?

It’s not like the folks in the ticket office don’t know today, for instance, a week and a half ahead of the next home game, the Friday, Sept. 24 tilt with Wake Forest, how many tickets are still out there.

If there are 15,000, 20,000, more still out there, you don’t bemoan a fan base for not supporting the program; you think of what you need to do to get butts in seats.

I’d give away 15,000 or 20,000 tickets instead of having 15,000 or 20,000 empties, my thinking there being, if you get those folks in the stadium, a good number of them are going to buy a hot dog and soda, a program, popcorn, and I’d assume that they’d have a good time while they were there, and maybe next time there’s empties, they might be inclined to plunk down $15 or $20 for an upper-deck seat, or even spring $45 or $50 for lower-level.

That’s what we did on the nights when we didn’t have sellouts for our wrestling events back in the day. Butts in seats mean concessions, they mean T-shirts, and down the road, people having a good time will want to have a good time again, and next time, they’ll have an understanding of the value.

The product on the field is worthy of a full stadium. I have this team playing in Charlotte against Clemson in December.

It’s embarrassing that we have the home atmosphere of Duke or Wake Forest for our home games.

The folks in the athletics department need to stop complaining about the fan base and focus their efforts on energizing the fan base to want to be a part of the fun on Fridays and Saturdays.

Story by Chris Graham


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