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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Filling stadiums not an easy task

University experiments with new marketing strategies designed to draw larger crowds

Last season, in her effort to snatch tickets to a football game, a North Carolina State student ended up in the hospital. \nBumps, scrapes and bruises all for a seat in Carter-Finley Stadium. \nDavid Lovell wishes he had the same problem. \nLovell, the director of marketing and promotions for IU athletics, has a job that doesn't carry much glamour. At least each fall. Lovell heads the effort to fill Memorial Stadium, a 52,180-seat football facility that averaged a crowd of 30,639 fans per game last season, the lowest season-long average since 1964.\nThis year marks Lovell's second year in his current post and a year that will involve changes in and around Memorial Stadium. Lovell said new Athletics Director Michael McNeely, who has a strong marketing background, has helped kick-start some of the marketing changes.\n"We have a targeted market," Lovell said. "We're trying to entice students, youth and families to get to the games."\nThe most noticeable change, evident in IU's first two homes games is a later kickoff time. Saturday's game against Kentucky, which was postponed Thursday, was set to begin at 4 p.m. IU's game against Utah next week has the same 4 p.m. kickoff. A lack of television coverage allows IU to alter the games' starting time.\nIU Media Relations Director Jeff Fanter said he hopes the backed-up start time will allow families from around the state ample time to arrive in Bloomington, enjoy pre-game festivities and return home all in the same day. \n"Now, they can get home at 11 at night instead of one in the morning," Fanter said. "They have plenty of time to travel. People from Evansville and Ft. Wayne can now get here and back."\nThe plan seems to be working to a certain extent. Fanter said that as of Wednesday morning, IU had sold 35,000 tickets for Saturday's scheduled game. That would have made Saturday's crowd the largest home-opener crowd since 38,006 watched IU play Ball State in 1997.\nFanter said he had no ticket numbers concerning next week's match-up with Utah. \nTo attract students to games, Lovell is working with Indiana native John Mellencamp, who is set to play a pair of concerts in Indianapolis Sept. 21 and 22. Student season-ticket holders will be able to sign up for a drawing in which 50 free lawn tickets will be given.\nOther changes Lovell and his crew have made include the return of the cannon to the playing surface. Lovell said he wasn't sure why the cannon, which blasts after IU touchdowns and field goals, wasn't used in recent years, but said it's something "fans appreciate."\nThe "Knot-hole section", seats behind both endzones, will also make its return. The section caters to groups and families attending the game for discounted prices. \nChanges in music and game-day presentation will also be evident, though Lovell said he maintains faith in the IU Marching Hundred to drum up enthusiasm. \n"We will have a healthy balance of canned music and the band," Lovell said. "The music will add a different light to game day."\nThe ranging marketing changes reflect the needed boost in football attendance at IU. Since Cam Cameron began his career in 1997, IU's season average attendance has steadily declined. During Cameron's first season, crowds averaged 39,296, nearly 10,000 more than last season's average. \nN.C. State, which toppled IU 35-14 last Thursday, has made adjustments similar to those IU is making. The Wolfpack have already sold all 51,500 tickets for each home game, including all 9,500 student tickets. \nThe smallest crowd to watch a game in Carter-Finley Stadium last season was 29,821, but that came on a rain-soaked, dreary day during Thanksgiving weekend. Against Florida State last season, N.C. State eclipsed its capacity, selling 52,384 tickets.\nN.C. State Athletics Marketing Director Ann-Marie Sales said long ticket lines and crazed fans are typical during football season in Raleigh. Pre-game festivities at N.C. State included F-16 fighter jet fly-bys, fireworks, a lengthy highlight video, parachuters and hyped-up player introductions. \n"It's crazy," she said. "People who don't get tickets get so upset. Everyone goes crazy for football."\nSales said N.C. State has borrowed ideas from Nebraska, Michigan and Brigahm Young, three successful programs. Lovell said he has borrowed ideas from a handful of schools, and said game-day festivities at Illinois and Wisconsin headline his list. \nBut, as both Lovell and Sales indicated, part of their job is out of their hands. \nSales acknowledged the accomplishments of the Wolfpack program and credited the players and staff for helping attract large crowds.\n"We're lucky," she said. "We have a great team, and it starts there."\nIn that arena, Lovell isn't so lucky.\nN.C. State won eight games last season and earned a bowl berth. IU won just three and has won only 13 since Cameron's debut, making Lovell's job that much more difficult. Still, he said he's not discouraged.\n"It's a challenge," he said. "But if you're not trying, you won't fill up the stadium. We keep trying, and we're much more active. We're going in a new direction, and we are being plenty aggressive"

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