Tiger football sees drop in attendance rates

Attendance has steadily declined in the last two years.
Fans watch as Marching Mizzou performs before the Tigers' game against San Diego State on Saturday at Faurot Field. Attendance for football games has been down overall this season compared to last season's first three games.

Despite a 3-0 string of wins from the Missouri football team and a spot on the coaches poll top 25 rankings to open its season, game attendance has dropped notably compared to last year.

“While it’s disappointing, it’s not a big shock,” Athletics Department spokesman Chad Moller said. “The sports industry is facing big challenges all over the country due to the (economic) time we’re experiencing.”

The Illinois season-opener, typically bringing in more than 60,000 attendants in the past, came up a little short this season with a game attendance of 58,060 in St. Louis.

The Tigers opened the 2010 home season against McNeese State on Sept. 11, bringing in 55,582 attendants. The 2009 home season opener against Bowling Green racked up nearly 10,000 more with 65,401 attendants.

“The opponents we’ve brought in aren’t ‘big name’ schools at least to the casual observer, even though they’re quality programs,” Moller said.

Moller said attendance seems to lag one year behind the on-field results.

“We won a second Big 12 North title in 2008 and attendance was up in 2009,” Moller said. “We took a step back in wins in 2009, so there is probably a segment of our more casual fan base that is taking a wait-and-see approach.”

Many students, even those with tickets, choose tailgating over attending the game, and, after the game, some students were still tailgating in the parking lot, having never entered the stadium.

Freshman Maddie Conklin said she usually tailgates with her friends, family or Delta Gamma sisters on game days.

“I tailgate before every game,” Conklin said. “It’s not a college football game without tailgating.”

Conklin is a holder of student season tickets, and said she wouldn't pass up a game in favor of tailgating.

“I plan on using all of my student tickets.” Conklin said. “I paid money for them, so I’m not going to let it go to waste.”

One new seating option this year for fans is Touchdown Terrace. A ticket holder can purchase the premium seating with padded chairs, climate control tents, covered food lines and upscale bathrooms for $600.

“It’s been very popular thus far,” Moller said. “People who have experienced the section have been very pleased with their experience, and we expect this to be something that grows as people become more familiar with it and word spreads.”

Rivalry games tend to bring in the largest crowds and in the past the Kansas game has done just that for MU. Last year, 70,072 watched the Tigers' victory over the Jayhawks at Arrowhead Stadium. In 2008, 79,123 were present to witness the loss, and in 2007 attendance peaked up to 80,537 for a 36-28 Missouri win. This season's Kansas game will be played at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 27, once again at Arrowhead Stadium.

Despite relatively low attendance for the 2010 season so far, Moller remains optimistic that big name opponents will bring big crowds to Memorial Stadium.

“We’re hoping they start coming back out once we get into the conference season,” Moller said.

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