Home games to be free for Western students

"Mutually beneficial" agreement reached between IA, Student Services Committee

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Full Western crowd

Laura Barclay

FREE TICKETS, FREE TICKETS, FREE TICKETS. After receiving an inflationary budget increase of two per cent, Intercollegiate Athletics has agreed to allow students free access to home games, with the exception of Homecoming and playoffs.

Another barrier to student attendance at Mustangs athletics events has come crashing down following the news of student ticket prices being reduced to zero for almost all regular season home games in the 2009-10 athletic season.

“It was agreed upon [...], that Intercollegiate Athletics would be afforded an inflationary increase [two per cent], contingent on the removal of all student ticket prices in all university facilities, excluding Homecoming and [playoff] games,” University Students’ Council President Stephen Lecce said.

Jim Weese, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, was pleased with the agreement made with the Student Services Committee, particularly since IA has had its fees frozen for the past 12 years, despite increasing overhead and travel costs.

“This recent decision is one we welcome and applaud,” he said.

“It speaks to the fact that the SSC understands the needs of the 852 student athletes who represent us in interuniversity athletics. It also speaks to their recognition of the increased travel costs as well as the cost of our success.”

Chuck Mathies, acting director of Intercollegiate Athletics, acknowledged that allowing students free access to games is only the first step in actually getting them through the gates.

Both the USC and IA have expressed an interest in working together to develop an effective marketing campaign to raise student awareness of the new initiative.

“Obviously the student union has access to a lot of different vehicles for promoting [the free access] to students. We definitely need to meet up with them and talk to their communications people and see where we can work on a coinciding marriage shall I say, to make this right,” Mathies said.

“The USC will evaluate the marketing plan and help support its success, so students are actively participating, at no price, in all Mustang games on campus,” Lecce added.

The Western crowd makes Ws with there fingers

Currently, IA is waiting on the results of a study composed by students at the Richard Ivey School of Business, which will recommend areas the organization can focus on to better attract students to games.

“They were doing an analysis over the course of the year and I’m looking forward to their results because they were going to do interviews with students,” Mathies said. “They flagged a bunch of things initially in December for us to keep in mind, so that report is going to help us get some feedback.”

Weese also pointed out the fact IA is regularly receiving student feedback and employs capable decision makers in the area of sport marketing.

“We are in constant communication with students " and in fact many of our employees are student-staff or recent graduates,” he said. “We also pay attention to successful promotions that work on other university campuses [and] many of our staff are sport management students who study sport marketing.”

Weese seemed confident in the fact that free admission will attract more students to games, pointing to successful initiatives seen in this year’s basketball, volleyball and hockey schedules.

“Recent promotions like the ‘Wear purple and you are in’ were very successful in generating higher student attendance, heightening campus pride in athletics and building excitement at our games,” he said.

Successful marketing will undoubtedly be the key to the success of the free ticket endeavour, a fact acknowledged by Lecce.

“If this arrangement is not working in favour of our students, [...] SSC retains the right to freeze the fee. We will hold [IA] accountable and hope for a sizable increase in attendance. If the arrangement does not work for students, then SSC, who controls the purse strings, will exercise their authority,” he said.

Despite these possible consequences, Weese believes this promotion will ultimately be beneficial to the student body.

“Our offer of allowing students free access to our games [...] is a win-win proposition [and] we hope more students will take advantage of this great opportunity,” he said.

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