It’s easy at the University of Calgary to claim nobody goes to Dinos games. With the U of C’s commuter campus status and the low rates of student engagement, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to conclude that most students aren’t interested in the Dinos.
Yet over the past five years, large events like Pack the Jack, Kickoff and the Crowchild Classic have seen a steady increase in attendance rates. Kickoff attendance improved by 3,240 students from 2015 to 2016. Attendance at Pack the Jack has improved by nearly 2,000 spectators since 2012. At the 2016 Crowchild Classic, the U of C broke a Canadian Interuniversity Sport record for the most students attending a men’s hockey regular season game, surging past the previous year’s 8,882 record for a total of 12,859. It’s clear that U of C students are capable of showing more of an interest in the Dinos.
Part of these result are likely due to increased promotions. For the past few years, the athletics department has ramped up their advertisement efforts for events like Kickoff, Pack the Jack and the Crowchild Classic. The Dinos use flashy posters, merchandise giveaways and skip-the-line incentives at the Den to promote team spirit. The creation of the Red Zone app also allows for students to receive prizes for their attendance at Dinos games outside of these marquee events. Students collect points by downloading the app and signing in when they’re at a Dinos game. The payback for attendance is the chance to win flat screen TVs, cell phones and video game consoles — and everyone loves free stuff. And since attendance to Dinos games outside of the USports playoffs is free for students with a Unicard, the Dinos have removed many of the barriers that make students apathetic about the Dinos.
The attendance statistics at major Dinos games refute the idea that students aren’t interested in varsity athletics. When well-advertised and given enticing incentives, Dinos games are an exciting venue for students to meet with friends and cheer on their university.
However, the increase in attendance rates mostly applies to marquee Dinos events. Only 301 people attended the 2016 women’s soccer Canada West Playoffs on the West Varsity Soccer Pitch. 1,834 attended the 2016 football Hardy Cup Championships compared to the 7,512 at Kickoff. At this year’s volleyball Block Party, 1,346 students attended the first Dinos men’s volleyball match, while only 617 attended the women’s, suggesting the Dinos need to promote their women’s games and address lower attendance rates for Dinos women’s sports.
Still, the influx of student attendance rates at major Dinos games shows a lot of promise for student engagement.
Rather than permeating a culture of apathy on campus, it’s important for students to recognize that Dinos games can be a valuable addition to the university experience. The Dinos also provide a model for the university and student groups that can be successfully applied to other campus events. It’s not that students don’t want to participate — they just need more promotion and incentive.
Big Dinos games allow for students to connect with their peers and get excited about the university. And with one of the strongest varsity programs in Canada and a 50-year history, the support from students for the Dinos athletics department is something worth cultivating.
Emilie Medland-Marchen, Gauntlet Editorial Board