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Men’s hoops wants fans in Carver

BY PATRICK RAFFERTY | JULY 30, 2009 7:11 AM

Attendance is important to a team’s success, because it brings in revenue and gives that team an advantage when playing in familiar surroundings.

With 6,370 empty seats reported for an average Iowa men’s basketball game during the last year that statistics are available, 2007-08, the Iowa athletics department is trying everything it can to pack Carver-Hawkeye Arena — and fill each of the 15,500 seats.

According to information from UI controller Terry Johnson, basketball attendance has been on a downward spiral since the 2005-06 season. Average attendance for 2007-08 was 9,130, which was down almost 1,500 from the previous year.

Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens has noticed the empty seats.

“When Carver’s packed, there’s no other place like it in America. It’s definitely home-court advantage. I think that’s something we’ve missed these past few years,” Gatens said. “We’d love to have them back. Hopefully, they support what we’re trying to do, and they can come out and watch us and give us support.”

Basketball is a tough game mentally and physically, and without any support, it can be hard to get ready for a game. Senior cocaptain Devan Bawinkel says good attendance keeps him and the rest of the Hawkeyes motivated.

“We have long days lifting, and with class, we’re pretty tired coming to games,” he said. “When we get here, the fans pick us up and make us play more intensely and more passionately.”

The need is obviously there for Iowa’s play. Most other programs throughout the UI are directly affected as well. The 2007-08 ticket revenue was at a low not seen in years past.

The overall revenue of the program has been down as well. After expenses, the program earned around $3.8 million during 2007-08 — a substantial drop if you consider two years before, it was $5.3 million and that the capital is heavily relied upon in various other aspects.

“At Iowa, although I believe it is true at most universities across the country, surpluses from football and men’s basketball fund all other collegiate sports,” Johnson said. “Unlike many other programs across the country, athletics at the University of Iowa receive no financial support from the University General Fund.”

Assistant Athletics Director Rick Klatt said the budget is partly determined by ticket sales, but he isn’t worried about having to reach any number.

“We have built our budget with a revenue number that comes from the sale of men’s basketball tickets that we believe is very attainable,” he said.

Recently, the athletics department decided to lower ticket prices for the upcoming season. Klatt believes that by lowering prices, it removes one barrier to student participation, and that should increase student attendance.

The athletics department has sold more than 800 tickets to incoming freshmen, after selling only 1,000 total last year, Klatt said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we can see a very healthy increase in our student season-ticket sales, which is important because of the energy that group brings to the arena on game nights,” he said.

He believes the Hawkeyes are becoming more competitive, and the combination of success and a lower cost will help attendance. He also believes by lowering season-ticket prices, some of the previous season-ticket holders can be retained and possibly some new people will buy them. Ticket prices will remain the same for student single games at $5 per ticket.

The success of the Hawkeyes is dependent on the support they receive, the Hawkeyes believe. Gatens said that in a way, it’s up to the fans.

“If they [the fans] come out, we’re going to get more wins because it’s going to help us out tremendously,” he said. “We’re looking forward to having more this year.”


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