There was VCU Athletic Director Norwood Teague during the Rams’ opening night win over UNC Greensboro earlier this season, making the rounds, slicing through the crowd with Joey Rodriguez-like agility. The promise of a new season of VCU Basketball showed in his spirited gait as he traded pleasantries with donors along the Verizon Wireless Arena’s newly-created courtside seating area. As he glanced up at an electric opening-night crowd of more than 7,000, he hid his satisfaction poorly.
“Isn’t this incredible?” Teague beamed.
That Nov. 12 audience was the second-largest to witness a VCU season-opener since the Rams began play at Stuart C. Siegel Center in 1999. The near-capacity crowd underscored the school’s explosive growth in attendance since 2002.
On Nov. 30, 2002, VCU opened the 2002 season with an 80-72 loss to Wagner before a paid crowd of just 2,111. Two games later, 2,090 warm bodies showed up for a game with Florida Atlantic, the smallest home crowd in the building’s history. Men’s Basketball attendance averaged just 4,108 that season, while student attendance plunged to an average of 484 per game.
However, just eight years later, VCU is eying potentially its fourth straight 6,000-plus average attendance season. The season ticket base has expanded to nearly 2,000. Ticket revenues have grown 125 percent over that period.
While the athletic department has instituted a number of enticements and other promotions over the years to increase revenue, atmosphere and attendance – the Sixth Man Rewards program for students has been particularly successful – Teague knows there’s no cure for winning.
“Our attendance growth has been phenomenal, both with student and non-students,” Teague, who joined VCU in 2006, said. “This has been the reason our home record is so successful in recent years. Our ticket revenue growth is a sole result of the massive interest in our basketball program throughout the Richmond area. We truly have become Richmond’s team.”
From 1985-2002, VCU won one conference championship, a Colonial Athletic Association title in 1995, and recorded three 20-win seasons. In the eight seasons since, VCU has five 20-win campaigns, three conference championships, three NCAA appearances and three other postseason bids. Additionally, VCU’s victory over Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament served as a galvanizing moment for the program. The Rams haven’t looked back since.
Last season, VCU topped 100,000 in total attendance for men’s basketball for the first time. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Rams finished 18-1 at home. Since the 2006-07 season, VCU is 60-6 at the Verizon Wireless Arena. It’s a point not lost on the VCU players and coaches.
“I think our fans really have a great relationship with our players. You can feel that out there, and our guys obviously feed off it,” VCU Head Coach Shaka Smart said. “I wish I could schedule every game here.”
SIEGEL CENTER ATTENDANCE
Season Average Student Season Tickets
1999-00 5,303 573 1,587
2000-01 5,014 602 1,378
2001-02 4,717 647 1,307
2002-03 4,108 484 1,235
2003-04 4,640 537 1,141
2004-05 4,815 722 1,325
2005-06 5,369 1,004 1,301
2006-07 5,640 1,130 1,266
2007-08 6,169 1,390 1,650
2008-09 6,106 1,320 1,832
2009-10 6,000 1,058 1,912
2010-11 6,135* n/a n/a
* – Through Jan. 15
VCU Attendance: 2002-2010
- 125 percent increase in ticket revenue.
- 46 percent increase in ticket sales.
- 68 percent increase in season tickets sold.