Students Challenge For East Side Seats in Dahlberg Arena Falling Short
Last fall, I issued a challenge to the students at The University of Montana that would allow them the opportunity to return to the east side seats in Dahlberg Arena for Grizzly men’s basketball games for the first time in a decade. It was a challenge to re-energize the student section like the days of “The Zoo” from the early 1970s through 1999. Our goal was to average at least 700 students per home contests, and create a lively environment that would return Dahlberg Arena to the intimidating home-court arena it had been for the Grizzlies prior to the Adams Center renovation.
I envisioned a scene similar to that at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium or the Kennel at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Instead, the numbers have been rather sporadic. Good student attendance was noted at the Colorado State game (1,140) when we experimented with re-locating the students to the east side seats on Nov. 9 and again for rival Montana State (1,131) when they remained in their current end zone sections on Feb. 9. (Incidentally, both were impressive victories by the home team). Aside from that, the most noticeable crowds were for Cal-State Fullerton (587 on Nov. 30) and the University of Portland (516 on Dec. 7). Since the Intersession break, the largest student attendance aside from MSU was for Eastern Washington on Thursday, Jan. 24 when 492 students went through the turnstiles. In our most recent games, we had 225 students for Sacramento State and 357 for Northern Arizona.
For the 13 home games thus far, we are averaging 432 students per game – or about 25 more per game than last year. For the 10 games outside of the Intersession period, the average is still only 517. That being said, it will take an impressive showing this week for Thursday’s game against Northern Colorado, and again Saturday night for league champion Portland State, for UM Athletics to take a serious look at moving our dedicated boosters away from the east side.
Let me be clear: I’d like nothing more than to re-visit the return of the students to those seats next year, but if they don’t show up now, it doesn’t make much financial sense. It wouldn’t be a battle I’m willing to wage – nor a very smart one. Remember, I’m also being tugged in another direction by loyal boosters who pay significant dollars to sit in those seats, who like the east side and its proximately to the playing floor. It isn’t an easy decision, unless, of course, the students chose not to attend the games.
There are two home games remaining. I challenge you to attend in big numbers, and make our decision tougher. Come out and support your peers, and create an atmosphere that is the envy of the Big Sky Conference. The players will appreciate it, the fans will enjoy it and we’ll all be winners. For those students who have loyally supported the team this year, I thank you – and acknowledge the effort you’ve made to get this challenge off the ground. Let’s hope more follow your lead this week.
Director of Athletics
The University of Montana