Wittenberg University will stop charging admission for regular-season football and men’s and women’s basketball games, athletic director Gary Williams said Tuesday. The athletic department already had stopped selling tickets for other sporting events.
Fans got in free for a football game Saturday for the first time when Wittenberg played Kenyon at Edwards-Maurer Field.
“Attendance at Wittenberg athletic events was really good for many decades,” Williams said, “and in these last 10 years or so, they all saw a steady decline. I’m not sure exactly what it can be attributed to. It can be attributed to many different things. And we’re not the lone rangers in this.”
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Williams cited the increase in the number of events fans can watch live on the Internet as one reason attendance has declined at Wittenberg and other colleges. Wittenberg dropped ticket prices to $5 for football games in recent years to try to draw more fans.
Fifteen years ago, Wittenberg’s home opener in football drew 4,023 fans. Ten years ago, a crowd of 3,140 fans watched the opener. Attendance at the 2018 season opener on Sept. 1 was 1,545. With no admission price Saturday, Wittenberg drew 2,504 fans.
“At the end of the day, we did a cost-benefit analysis,” Williams said, “and we realized what we might be losing in revenue pales in comparison to the actual cost of what we think we’re losing by not having people come see us play. The realization is that we want Springfield to feel like Wittenberg and Wittenberg athletics and any of our events are more accessible to them.”
The football team’s next home game is at 3 p.m. Oct. 6 against Hiram. Wittenberg also has home games in women’s field hockey, women’s volleyball, women’s golf and men’s and women’s soccer this fall.
Events will remain free throughout the 2018-19 academic year, and Williams expects the policy to continue in future years. Fans will still have to pay to see conference tournament games or NCAA tournament games held at Wittenberg.
“At the end of the day, there are no strings attached,” Williams said “This isn’t some marketing ploy. There are no ulterior motives. This is just us literally saying we want more people in town to come see us play, and we’d rather you sit in the stands and have a good experience with Wittenberg because that is worth more than any ticket sales. Being in the stands, having a positive experience on campus, promoting what we’re doing here, following our teams and then having people talk about that in a positive way is more important to us than any ticket revenue.”
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