SBD/August 22, 2014/Colleges

SEC Schools Making Concerted Effort To Improve In-Game Experience For Fans

Univ. of Georgia's Sanford Stadium recently upgraded its Wi-Fi capabilities
The SEC on Wednesday announced that it is "taking steps to improve the 'fan experience' at games this season," as at least 12 of the 14 conference members are trying to "improve concessions with more areas and will offer ordering with smart phones and expanded menus," according to David Jones of FLORIDA TODAY. At least eight SEC programs "are improving restroom conditions, including adding restroom attendants, increasing the number of restroom facilities and adding audio to restroom facilities so fans can follow the game." Schools also are taking steps to "improve cell service for its customers, some with wi-fi for fans in premium seating." At least four schools "have made administrative changes to address the fan experience by adding full-time staff members to focus on the fan 'experience'" (FLORIDA TODAY, 8/21). The changes "resulted from recommendations made by a working group" approved by SEC ADs in June '12 to "review attendance trends with some fans choosing to watch at home on flat-screen TVs" (AP, 8/21). In Birmingham, Andrew Gribble reported with an "injection of new televisions," Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium now "boasts 240 monitors in the concourse and concession areas -- more than four times the amount it had" in '13. Most of the TVs "will be used to show a live, closed-circuit broadcast of the game they're stepping away from to go to the bathroom or grab a snack." The addition of 300 new point-of-sale screens "is designed to speed up lines in the concession area." There will also be "new pre-game entertainment options" at the stadium (AL.com, 8/20).

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL? USA TODAY's Dan Wolken reports schools have seen a "boom that has seen college football grow into America's second-favorite sport," but the people athletic departments "count on to be their lifeblood -- students, who turn into alumni, who turn into season ticket buyers and donors -- are seemingly less and less interested in spending their Saturdays in football stadiums." Oklahoma AD Joe Castiglione said, "It's a very real concern. It certainly gives reason for pause because right now the demand for tickets may still be high overall in the marketplace, but within that segment the demand isn't as strong." Wolken cites data showing athletic departments are "finding it harder to draw students into the stadium and keep them there." The "bigger potential issue is difficult to quantify and even harder to fix: Are the so-called 'millennials' simply not as interested in college football?" Schools in some ways "have done this to themselves," as college football "is now owned by television and increasingly available on streaming video." Wolken asks, "If schools are struggling to get their millennials to come to the stadium now -- when tickets are plentiful and cheap -- how can they reasonably expect to convert them into ticket buyers and donors down the road?" (USA TODAY, 8/22).
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