Iowa football adjusting to decline in attendance

Hawkeye Headquarters

College football has some of the most dedicated fan bases around the country.

You can usually count on stadiums from Tuscaloosa to Iowa City to be packed on Saturday afternoons.

But times are changing as the battle for the entertainment dollar is as competitive as ever.

College football is in the middle of a crisis and the problem is getting butts in the seats.

“All we can do is try and put a good team on the field,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s all we can do. If that’s not enough… if they need me to stand on my head that’s gonna be tough.”

The average attendance at FBS games has dropped nearly 11 percent in the past decade. That’s the lowest level since 1996.

“You know it’s hard to entertain people now,” Ferentz said. “I’ll say that, just in general. You hear about what’s important now, getting WiFi in the stadium, I mean heaven forbid going to a football game and watching the game, like the whole game. I don’t know why anybody would do that.”

Iowa’s decrease has been around 4 percent during the same 10-year period.

“When I first arrived, we were sold out of most games in July,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. “Well that hasn’t happened now for many years.”

And Barta says the trend has forced the athletic department to get creative.

“We work really hard to have group prices, youth prices, family prices so there’s at least access,” Barta said. “I just want to make sure that we don’t assume that every game is just going to be exciting and sell out and that we’re doing things to prepare for the future.”

That includes possibly selling beer and wine at Kinnick Stadium in the near future.

“I anticipate at some point, we’ll get there,” Barta said. “The goal won’t be financial, although that could be a side benefit. It will be customer, fan experience.”

Also adding to the fan experience this year is the completion of the north end zone project.

“With the club area completed, the loge boxes completed and even with all the seats and the restrooms and the concessions, I know fans are gonna really, really enjoy it,” Barta said.

New elements to complement the pageantry and tradition on Saturday afternoons.

Kirk Ferentz says don’t forget about the pregame festivities either.

“I’ve always heard the tailgating at Kinnick is legendary and if I ever do retire, I’m gonna tailgate,” Ferentz said. “I don’t know if I’ll go into the game, but I will tailgate.”

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