Basketball teams facing drop in crowd numbers

Attendance at men's basketball games has dropped 29 percent, while the women's games have seen 23 percent smaller crowds. (Brian Matthews/TommieMedia)
Attendance at men's basketball games has dropped 29 percent, while the women's games have seen 23 percent smaller crowds. (Brian Matthews/TommieMedia)

With the St. Thomas men’s and women’s basketball teams playing home games at the Gangelhoff Center on Concordia University’s St. Paul Campus, home court has not been the same this season.

Both teams have seen a drop in their average attendance, with the men’s average attendance dropping from 950 fans to 675, and the women’s attendance dropping from 219 fans to 169 so far this season.

Men’s golf coach David Lepp volunteers at many of the games and acknowledges the drop in numbers, but said having games off campus is a major factor.

“Students can’t just walk out of their dorms to go to the game,” Lepp said. “Anytime you go off campus, you can expect to lose some people.”

Fanamaniac has tried to make going to the games as convenient as possible by providing buses for students to and from games, but for students like senior Ryan Maciej, it’s just not the same.

“I used to be able to stop by and catch some of the game if I were walking by the gym,” Maciej said. “But now I just don’t have that option.”

Other students like senior Megan Honan have forgotten about the basketball teams because the on-campus hype does not seem as high.

“I went to at least five [games] last year plus the home playoffs,” Honan said. “I did not even know the season started, and have not gone to any this year.”

Men’s team hopes for playoff hype again

The men’s team has traditionally seen an increase in attendance after J-term, and it is nearing the MIAC and NCAA playoffs.

Last season, the four regular season games played in February totaled 5,640 fans, 54 percent of the total attendance for the team’s 11 home games during the season.

The Tommie faithful stayed loyal to their team in the MIAC playoffs and the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, where the average attendance was nearly 1,600 for each of the four games.

Coach Steve Fritz hopes that this year is similar, and he is confident after a crowd of 1,375 showed up for the Jan. 16 game against rival St. John’s.

The concern is that the St. John’s game was the only game out of the eight home games so far that the attendance was in triple digits. Last year, attendance was over 1,000 in 5 of the 11 home games.

The women’s side of the ball

The women’s attendance levels have not seen as big of a decline from last year to this year.

In the women’s 13 home games last season, the team averaged 219 fans per game, whereas this season the team has averaged 169 fans in their nine regular season home games thus far.

The women’s team has also benefited from February, due to an increase in fan base over J-term, and it has already had 590 fans in its two February games, accounting for 25 percent of this season’s attendance.

How will this season’s playoff atmosphere be?

It may be hard to top the sea of purple that filled Shoenecker Arena last February and helped the women’s team defeat Hamline by three points in the MIAC semifinals, or the 1,750 fans that rocked the arena for the men’s double-digit victory in the MIAC championship against Bethel. But Fritz and Lepp are both confident that people will come support both teams.

“We are hoping that as we move to the playoffs and with school back in session, that crowds and interest will continue to increase,” Fritz said.

Students like Maciej are skeptical that the atmosphere will be as loud as it was last year with the off-campus location.

“I think you’re going to get the big fans either way,” Maciej said. “But you might not fill the stands anymore. People like to have ‘social gatherings’ before the game, which rule driving out, so there is the problem.”

Brian Matthews can be reached at