May 26, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
South Carolina softball recently wrapped up another tremendous season as head coach Beverly Smith’s Gamecocks reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. In addition to seeing the program continue to rise nationally, the ability for more fans to come to games helped improve the atmosphere on game day thanks in part to a change in the season ticket policy in 2016 which made all season tickets general admission as opposed to reserved seating.
“The reason we changed it was because we were getting a lot of support from people buying season tickets, which was awesome,” said South Carolina marketing assistant Rebecca Piner. “However, a lot season ticket holders were purchasing to support the team, but they weren’t able to come to many of the games, so those seats were empty.”
“Our season ticket holders are such great fans, and we appreciate their support,” Smith said. “It’s important to the team. I wanted more groups and more teams at games. I think about it in terms of having screaming softball teams in the stands. I wanted to see large groups, and I found out we weren’t doing a lot of group sales in the past because we were sold out, but we were sold out in a stadium that wasn’t full.”
While buying a season ticket assured ticket-holders a seat in 2016, it did not allow them to reserve seats behind home plate or other favorite spots as they had in the past.
“It didn’t look good when a lot of the best seats were empty, especially since all of our home games are on TV now,” Piner said. “So if we announce an attendance of 1,200 people but you only see a scattered amount of people in the seats, it looks bad on us as an institution because it looks like we’re not being honest.”
Prior to the 2016 season, South Carolina had only sold out Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field three times since it was rebuilt and reopened in 2013, and one of those games was the SEC Tournament Championship game that year which did not involve the Gamecocks. The stadium has a capacity of 1,480. A consistently improving team, along with the new seating arrangements, have made sellouts more common.
We would not have been able to sell as many single game tickets under the old assigned ticket system. So this helped us actually get more people into games.
“We had four sellouts this year after having only three the previous three years,” Piner said. “We had another game this year that was the third highest attended non-sellout, and it was one ticket shy of tying second highest non-sellout. So I really think the new system positively affected the ability for more people to come to games.”
The average attendance for South Carolina home games, which is determined by ticket sales, was nearly identical to the previous year. However, the availability of more individual game tickets meant that more of those purchased tickets were actually being used.
“Being on the field and feeling the presence of the crowd, you felt like there were more people in the seats this year,” Smith said. “It was louder, and that makes a difference to your team. Especially on SEC weekends, it felt like we were full. That’s what we’ve been looking for, to have a home field advantage.”
“I think a few people didn’t understand the reasoning for changing the seating, so some of them chose to purchase single game tickets for the games they were going to since it was general admission anyway,” Piner said. “We would not have been able to sell as many single game tickets under the old assigned ticket system. So this helped us actually get more people into games.”
The new policy also allowed for a great experience for larger parties with more group tickets being sold which led to individuals becoming repeat customers to watch the Gamecocks play.
“Group sales were huge for us this year,” Piner said. “We had a goal of selling at least one thousand tickets for groups, and we ended up doubling that. Last year we had only 300 single game tickets available per game, so we couldn’t really do a lot of group sales. This year we were able to connect with different softball organizations, birthday parties and things like that to get groups in here.”
That kind of involvement helped create a better atmosphere during games.
“I really thought it was a huge success because we were able to have a lot of involvement with youth leagues and teams, and you could see how much they were enjoying the game day environment that was there,” Smith added. “The marketing department has always done a nice job of helping make a great game day atmosphere, but it’s really the fans that create it. Having all those young girls there who aspire to be on the field and having their families enjoying the game is just fun. We put a good product on the field, and we have a lot of student-athletes who are great role models for some of those young girls.”
The Gamecocks certainly appreciate season ticket buyers, and the marketing and ticket staff are creating plans for those who are not able to use their tickets for individual games to be able to possibly donate their seats to other fans.
“For those Gamecock fans that are unable to make it to every game, but would like to show their support by purchasing season tickets, donation options will be available both by game and for the entire season,” Piner said.
“I think year one was a success for the change,” Smith said. “I think we will continue to see what we can do to benefit our season ticket holders and make it the best experience for them and also for the student-athletes. They get to play in this beautiful stadium, and I want them to have a fantastic atmosphere. And I certainly want young boys and girls to come in and be able to have a great time at a Gamecock Softball game.”
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