This year, for the first time in three years, there is a cost of admission for students to all Gee-Gees games. Initially, the fee seems appalling given the low game attendance over the years. One of the things Fulcrum sports reporters have noticed is that compared with other schools, our teams don’t seem to generate the same level of school pride, regardless of how well they’re performing.
The University of Ottawa, being an intercity school, has a reputation for not having the strongest sense of community. Sports games are just one of the ways that manifests itself, but with half-empty rows of seats to cheer on a winning team, it can be striking. Even across town, the first-ranked Carleton Ravens often sell out their men’s basketball games, while our second-ranked team never comes close to accomplishing the same.
Not charging for admission must have seemed like a way of encouraging people to come out and build up a sense of community by cheering together.
However, there seem to be more people out at games this year and Julie Tam, assistant director of communications, marketing and information technology for sports services, confirms that attendance increased this year. Is it possible that charging admission has helped to increase the perceived value of our athletics?
According to the endowment effect, a hypothesis put forward by behavioural economists, people are more likely to value something they own. By paying for a ticket or a season pass, students have ownership over the games they attend.
The current cost for students to attend most Gee-Gees games is $4. Football is $8 (and has been the only sport to consistently charge for attendance), and a student can join the Stampede for $25 and attend all games for the year—excluding the Panda Game and Capital Hoops—as well as receiving some swag and members-only deals.
The Stampede is probably the biggest difference between this year and previous years. In the past, the biggest coordinated group going out to games was the Jockey Club. It was a social club that organized parties, painted their faces, sold “Hung like a Gee-Gee” T-shirts, and cheered our teams on. Their attendance at games tended to be inconsistent and was centred around drinking alcohol. The introduction of admission fees would make it harder to organize a group of rowdy Gee-Gees coming to and paying for a game.
The Stampede allows for all of this revelry at an affordable price, but it also makes room for those who want to cheer their teams on without being part of that particular scene. With the same group of people coming out, it creates a sense of familiarity for fans that can eventually create visible community.
Tam confirms that not only has there been an increase in attendance over last year, but the audience is more engaged. She wrote in an email that sports services “(attributes) this to the efforts of the Stampede leaders to bring more students to games and to engage them more in cheering on our teams.”
Paying money can create a sense of value, as long as the price remains low. Students are likely to spend more than $4 going out to almost any other social gathering, and more than $25 going out for even one or two meals in the Market.
The new Gee-Gees tickets are also comparable with other schools. Carleton University charges students between $3 for soccer and rugby games and $11 for football. While they do have a Varsity Pass that allows registered students to attend games for free, it doesn’t include football games. McGill charges students $5, while Queen’s offers free admission except for football playoffs, when students pay $10.
While charging students to attend games is likely turning off some of the more casual fans, it’s provided a way to bring more dedicated fans together and show off the sense of community that can be found at the U of O. The entire student body rarely seems to come together, but there are pockets of community. We may not love paying for something that used to be free, but it is great to see more students out supporting our teams.