With the opening of the Sanford Coyote Sports Center (SCSC) and team improvements during games, USD is gaining an increase in game attendance.
During the Summit League Tournament championships last year, there were 65,533 attendees for men’s and women’s championships, a 5,000 attendee increase from 2015, according to the Summit League website.
This increase coincides with USD being eligible for the tournament starting in 2011, athletic director David Herbster said. Because of USD’s emergence and improvements, Herbster said it created an entire fan base.
“As our programs become better, there’s certainly more interest and a greater following so more will actually attend the
event,” he said.
Another reason for an increase of home game attendance is the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, which the women’s basketball team won last year.
Joe Thuente, USD’s director of athletic marketing and promotion, said the WNIT win could’ve played a role in increasing attendance at the SCSC.
“The team has been successful this season as well — our men and women are doing very well,” he said. “Certainly, winning the WNIT and having a full DakotaDome for that championship game hasn’t hurt any of our efforts to build that atmosphere.”
Thuente said “building the atmosphere” encourages fans to come to games by creating a fun, engaging environment.
The SCSC is the ideal venue to showcase a large fan base, he added.
“They feel like they’re more involved in the game,” Thuente said. “It’s encouraged fans — it’s louder but it’s also encouraged people to be more participatory.”
Thuente said the overall marketing strategies from last year didn’t change a lot. Technology and building the atmosphere changes, however, did with a new facility.
Because the new arena is centered around volleyball and basketball, Thuente said changes to technology were made.
“The biggest changes are probably on the atmosphere side,” Thuente said. “What can we do with music and video and promotions on the court and use our new ribbon board and all those new ‘toys’ we have in the production room.”
Herbster said the “ability to be interactive” is an important change made for attracting fans to games.
“Music was an issue, sound quality was an issue, just being able to hear the announcer was sometimes an issue (in the Dome),” he said.
Thuente said student attendance this year has “fluctuated,” and ticket sales have been going up. Though he said he can’t be certain until he goes over the plan when the athletics season is over, the overall marketing plan for student attendance is going “alright.”
Herbster said Coyote fans have been “pretty good” about showing support for the teams. He said there’s typically a spike during the last few games of the season, especially for men and women’s basketball when the teams have been successful.
“I think what I’ve heard is that it’s just an enjoyable experience to be here for a game,” he said. “What I foresee for the (basketball) games we have left… my hope is that there’s not a seat left in the arena to get.”
Herbster said students can be the reason teams do well.
“Their support, their enthusiasm, their noise, their involvement in a game can be an incredible asset,” Herbster said. “I know they can do it. The tough part is building that culture. We’re still trying to understand the traffic patterns.”
Thuente said building the SCSC’s atmosphere is a continual process, and he’s looking forward to increasing Coyote
pride and interest.
“The arena is 6,000 seats for a reason,” Thuente said. “We know the interest in basketball is there. It’s building it up to the point where we are selling out the arena at a regular basis. If we didn’t think we could do it, we wouldn’t build 6,000 seats.”
Herbster said the fans and the teams both contribute to growing attendance.
“Our numbers will continue to increase as the performance of our teams improve,” Herbster said. “It’s no secret that most fans follow a winner. It’s more enjoyable to go to a game where you’re competitive, and I think our teams are extremely competitive.”