Following an 18-month pause of social and athletic activity on campus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the athletic department has noted an increase in the number of spectators at sporting events in comparison to past academic years as the College’s full student body inhabits the campus for the first time since February 2020.
According to the fall varsity sports wrap-up from the 2019-2020 academic year published in November 2019, the College’s teams averaged approximately 140 spectators per game, not considering the outlier of the varsity football team, which averaged just over 3,000 attendees per game. Though statistics for this fall are not yet available, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan explained that the numbers from the fall of 2019 have already been surpassed in the athletic competitions that the College has hosted so far.
“With all of our home contests [this year], we’ve seen larger crowds since the last time we were allowed to host them, which was two years ago,” Ryan said. “Those crowds have been more engaged and energetic during the games than they were two years ago as well.”
Ryan attributes the spike in attendance to the enthusiasm students have displayed this fall now that their forced hiatus from participating in the College’s events has come to an end.
“Students are really excited to be back on campus and engaging in the college experience,” Ryan said. “Attending [sporting] events allows them to be with some of their friends and support their other friends [on the College’s athletic teams].”
Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Jim Caton echoed Ryan’s statements, crediting the exuberant student body for being the catalyst of the positive trend in support of the College’s athletic teams.
“It has been a very organic momentum that has been built by students that want to be engaged in the campus community, and [the athletic department] is just working off of that,” Caton said.
This is not the first time in the College’s recent history that the athletic department has observed an increase in attendance at their home competitions.
“We saw [a similar trend in spectatorship in 2009] when we stopped charging admission to regular season home contests, and specifically to our hockey games, where crowds were consistently large,” Ryan said.
Ryan and the rest of the athletic department prioritized accessibility when making the decision to stop charging admission to home events.
“We wanted to make the games monetarily accessible for all students and people in the greater Brunswick community,” Ryan said.
With the current positive trend in attendance, Ryan hopes that students and local fans will feel comfortable and protected from the spread of the COVID-19 virus when attending competitions hosted at the College, as the athletic department strictly follows the protocols created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“[The athletic department] has followed all of the [COVID-19] guidelines that are already in place on campus,” Ryan said. “For indoor events, our students and fans should feel like they can come to an environment that is safe and that enforces the same protocols that would be in place in the dining hall or in the classroom. Everybody is vaccinated and masked.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the fall competition schedule and to future seasons, the athletic department hopes to explore ways to capitalize on the student desire to participate in campus life and to continue the trend of increased attendance at sporting events.
“[We have] a general desire to continue the positive momentum [regarding support from fans and students],” Caton said. “We’ve [promoted events] on our social channels a little bit more than we have in the past … and at this time when there’s a noticeable gap in some campus activities, we’re trying to keep home athletic events at the forefront of students’ minds.”