After attending the majority of Arkansas State home games this year, one question that I’ve heard asked for several years now is more prevalent to me than ever: How can we improve attendance at the Convocation Center for both men’s and women’s basketball games?
There is no easy answer. If there were, the issue of attendance would have been solved years ago. I wasn’t around for the so-called “glory days” of Arkansas State basketball, but I would love to see those days restored.
I do feel like the University is working on that problem– giving students giant signs to hold up during the games, premium leather court side seats for season ticket holders that give top-dollar donations, and even bringing in quality halftime entertainment that is suitable for all ages. All of these things are great and make the games more fun to attend (for some) however, I feel there are still many problems which have yet to be addressed.
In my opinion, it all begins with student participation. If the University can find a way to get the student population out of their dorms, I feel like the energy at the convocation center will be increased ten-fold. I hear stories of tailgates and cookouts before basketball games during the “glory days,” but I have never seen any such thing during my time in Jonesboro. Maybe it’s time to being them back . Perhaps have a students only tailgate before the game with free food for anyone with a student id. Have games or giveaways during the tailgates, and make them fun to attend. Wouldn’t ANY student be excited to win even a $50 gift certificate to the University book store? This is really a shot in the dark for me, as once again, I don’t know how the old tailgates used to be, but I know as a former student, when I heard “win prizes” or better yet, “free food,” I was usually there.
Then there’s the matter of getting the students from the tailgate into the game, and that’s where, I think, the excitement factor comes in.
There are several possible answers as to what could make the games more exciting for the students, as well as the other fans. Firstly and foremost, in my opinion, it’s time to move the student section DIRECTLY behind he opposing team’s bench. Let’s not just make the atmosphere in the Convocation Center a fun one to be on, but let’s make it the most loud and formidable place that our opponents have ever seen. And, as a former student, I know that if I get the chance to to smack-talk the opponent from directly behind their bench, I’m gonna get there early and fight to get those front row seats.
Second, and this one has already been done with the football games at Arkansas State (even though I think those could still use some work also), lets make the student section an ACTUAL student section. For anyone that has attended any Red Wolves game this year, or any year — be honest — would you be able to distinguish the student section from the General Admission crowd if it weren’t for the BCM’s Naked Guys? I wouldn’t. Lets do something about it! Start enforcing seating and lets separate our students from the rest of the crowd.
In addition to these things, I think more people, not just students, would show up to help make the Convocation Center a fun, energetic environment if the basketball program took a page from the football program playbook and scheduled a home-and-home with a few good teams from around the country. Bring in some competition! I don’t necessarily mean bring in the Duke Blue Devils, but there are some teams around the country with good talent that I’d hope basketball fans around here would want to come watch.
What else could we do to make the convocation center a more fun atmosphere to be in? Another idea is to stop spreading everyone out so thin! BRING THE CURTAIN BACK! I’m not sure when this happened, but there used to be a curtain covering the upper tiers on both ends of the court. Bring it back and forces everyone to sit closer to each other! Have you ever attended a high school basketball rivalry game at one of those schools with a tiny gym that the fans pack in and there is standing room only? Those places can ROCK with noise and excitement. Lets put our fans in a similar seating situation. Time to be loud and proud TOGETHER Red Wolves fans! And in a nice touch that could be aesthetically pleasing from our own JC, why not bring back the curtains to both ends of the court, but with GIANT Red Wolves logos on both of them?
Look, maybe some of my ideas are simply delusions of grandeur, but I don’t feel that they are so far-fetched that they aren’t possible, and I hope you all understand what I’m getting at. The bottom line is this– the university is going to have to step up its game and find a way to put more butts in the seats to support these student athletes. They have made some great strides this year (take the UALR game for example), and I hope that they will continue to listen to our feedback and work to make the Convocation Center an exciting place to watch a game. It’s a work in progress, and the things that they have done this year are indeed a reminder that this is a program that is truly, Always Rising.