Crowd control: Women’s basketball lags behind men in attendance despite better record

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It was a full crowd for the Lafayette-Lehigh men’s game this season.

Drew Friedman

Photos by Austin Drucker ‘17 and  Hana Isihara ‘17

The Lafayette women’s basketball team is putting up better numbers this year than last. All one has to do is check out the team’s record of 14-15 and compare it with the 11-19 result the Leopards logged in 2012-2013. But the women have put up better numbers in another critical category as well: attendance.

This season, the women’s basketball squad has drawn an average of 754 fans per home game. That’s a marked improvement over the 614 seats they filled per game last season.

“Season ticket sales are up 30 percent year to year,” said Scott Morse, Lafayette’s Director of Athletic Communications and Promotions.

Part of the increase can be attributed to the renovations the college made over the summer at the Kirby Center, which include a bright new paint job, a refinished hardwood playing surface, the installation of a new scoreboard with LED displays, and a sweeping overhaul of the spectator areas that features chair back seating along both sidelines.

However, there may be other factors in the attendance upswing as well. For one thing, there’s that improvement in the team’s record under women’s head basketball coach Dianne Nolan. It’s no secret that people come to see successful teams more often than they come to see unsuccessful ones.

Morse and the Athletics Communication team have also made an effort to reach out beyond the campus. “We want to get families from the region to the games,” Morse said. “We want to promote a family friendly atmosphere. Over the break, we invited all of the elementary schools within the school district.”

“The crowds were good this year,” Nolan said. “Our team is actively involved with community outreach programs spreading the word about Lafayette. Having a dedicated intern all year working on promotions is a step. Lauryn Harris did an outstanding job with Scott Morse this year.”

The bump in ticket sales is even more impressive when one takes into account a couple of attendance challenges. Ironically, one of these challenges is the Kirby Center renovation, which reduced spectator capacity in the arena from 3,500 seats to 2,644.

Another is the number of snowstorms that have battered Easton this winter, depositing more than 56 inches of snow by early March as compared with an average of 32 inches in past years.

“It is funny to say this but weather does affect it,” Morse said. “It affects people’s willingness to drive to games, especially this year.”

Despite the fact that the women (14-15 overall, 8-10 Patriot League) have outperformed the men’s team (11-20, 6-12 PL), they’re still outsold by their male counterparts. Despite the fact that the men’s basketball ticket sales slid a bit this year, the average men’s game still sees 1,648 fans in the seats, nearly 900 more fans per game than the women.

In the meantime, efforts to build attendance for both the men’s and the women’s programs are ongoing.

“I think if we stress school spirit and energy,” Morse said, “the attendance will follow.”