Athletics and Center for the Arts Events Gain Attendance

Posted: July 13, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

George Mason hosts a myriad of athletic, cultural, and arts events and performances each year, catering to the general public and the university community. One of the central goals of both the Athletics Department and the Center for the Arts (CFA) over the last several years has been to increase attendance at events they host, particularly among students, faculty, and staff. In recent years their efforts have been rewarded.

CFA, headed by Rick Davis, artistic director and associate dean, has seen a substantial rise in ticketed student attendance at its events over the past several years. In 2003-04, the CFA box office recorded total student tickets of 15,063, a marked increase from 2002-03, when 13,844 student tickets were issued. Events held by the various academic departments, including Dance, Music, and Theater, saw an overall student attendance increase to 5,390 in 2003-04, up from 4,999 the previous academic year. Attendance figures for events where individual departments issued their own tickets in addition to ones from the CFA and other events where tickets were not required are not included in these figures.

The Great Performances at Mason professional concert series also saw increased student attendance, with 9,673 tickets issued in 2003-04, up from 8,845 in the previous academic year. “This [increase in student attendance] mirrored an overall increase in public attendance at the Concert Hall, which broke longstanding records in ticket sales in the just-concluded season,” says Davis. “While we are pleased with the growth in student arts attendance, we would very much like to see this trend continue and accelerate. The arts at Mason, with the unique combination of terrific student work, world-class professional performances, and virtually unlimited access risk-free, are an aspect of this university that truly sets it apart from its peers.”

Davis notes that one of the key elements to increasing student attendance at the various events hosted by the CFA is word of mouth. “One of the best ways is faculty, staff, and peer advocacy—students, like any other audience member, will respond more affirmatively to a recommendation or encouragement from a person they know than to any amount of marketing or advertising. So we urge everyone who has enjoyed a performance at Mason to spread the word about the quality and range of what’s offered here, most of it for free.”

The Athletics Department, under the overall direction of Tom O’Connor, assistant vice president and athletic director, initiated a new large-scale marketing plan two years ago, with the goal of increasing student attendance at sporting events. Perhaps most indicative of the success of this plan was in the increased attendance at men’s basketball home games. In 2003-04, the average student attendance at a men’s basketball game at the Patriot Center was 546, up from 293 in the previous academic year. This is the third highest student attendance level in university history, and the highest since the 1990-91 academic year.

The 2003-04 season also saw one of the largest student crowds at a home game. During the National Invitation Tournament game on March 19 against Austin Peay University, 1,549 students showed up, the highest attendance at a game since Feb. 23, 1990, and the third highest in university history.

Write to at