The Long Beach State athletics program has a rich history, with multiple teams earning Division I National Championships and being contenders in conference play. As many of the teams have fallen into losing records and underwhelming play, fans have been skipping the trip to the Walter Pyramid to catch the 49ers in action. Long Beach State athletics has been doing its best to increase attendance.
“We have to capture experiential things,” LBSU Athletics Director Andy Fee said. “What is it about going to a game at the Walter Pyramid that I can’t get at home?”
Since 2015, the Walter Pyramid has seen a substantial decrease in attendance in men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. With the men’s volleyball team’s recent success, it has been the only team hosted in the venue that has more than doubled its attendance since the 2014-2015 season. That year saw the men’s and women’s basketball team average 3,538 and 869 fans per game, while men’s and women’s volleyball averaged 860 and 918, respectively.
This 2018-2019 season saw men’s basketball, women’s basketball and women’s volleyball average 2,239, 577, and 985 fans per game. Men’s volleyball is currently averaging 1,988 fans halfway through its season. Despite the men’s volleyball team being ranked No. 2 in the nation, the underwhelming men’s basketball team still has reached a bigger audience.
The question is, how is the athletics department trying to fix this issue? Fee’s first solution: Fixing the Wi-Fi.
“We’ve looked at what the real problem is and it basically starts with -— are we connective enough,” Fee said. “We know that people are attached to our phones, so we’re working on ways to bring those people in.”
According to Fee, BeachNet Plus is available for use in the Walter Pyramid.
“The goal is to have it up and running at all times, or at least every game day,” Fee said. “We want people in there who want to feel connected by posting a photo on their Instagram or Twitter to interact.”
Other ideas to motivate more students to attend games include introducing a student lounge section. It would be similar to the Sand Bar, but would be located opposite of the main entrance where there is currently a large empty space.
“An idea would be to bring gaming systems, TVs and more up there for those who don’t just want to watch the game,” Head of Ticket Sales Benny Garcia said.
It’s been tough for Fee to fully understand what the problem is, but he often searches social media to see what other schools are doing.
“Everybody is struggling. Attendance is down in general and I don’t know if it’s because of flat screens or something else,” Fee said. “We’re trying to come up with creative solutions, but it’s perplexing to me.”
The marketing department has made an effort to spread the word by hanging banners that emphasize students have free admission to all athletic events at LBSU. Players and coaches also do small promotional activities near the business building, giving away free gear to students who participate.
“Fans like to see the athletes and coaches out there interacting with them, it makes them want to come support the team,” Head of Marketing Kelli Gill said.
While a teams’ overall performance can play a big part of the lack of attendance, Fee believes the experience is what will bring in more students and fans regardless of play.
“It matters and everybody loves the winner, but it’s not the only thing,” Fee said. “We can never guarantee a win or a loss, but I can always guarantee that everything else will be the best it can be.”
“Fresh Prince of LB” and “Halloween Night” are promotions that have brought in more students than usual according to Fee, which has led the marketing department to consider having multiple theme nights in the future. Engagement with fans has proven to bring them in more, which has given the marketing department a better understanding of its audience.
“I can sit at home and watch the game, but that doesn’t make it unique,” Fee said. “You can’t get the same experience of being dressed up for a theme night at home. We [athletics] can’t just say, ‘Here is some free pizza come to the game’ anymore, we have to sell the event to the fans now.”