Despite lower turnout than other sports, coaches, players, fans enjoy Fertitta Center atmosphere
A cheer erupts from the stands of Fertitta Center.
The Cougars huddle together, celebrate and quickly scatter across the court into defensive formation, awaiting the opposition’s serve.
“Point, Houston!” shouts Jared Gogets, Houston’s public address announcer.
Houston has had an impressive 2019, going on a seven-game conference win streak. On top of that, UH will finish above .500 in American Athletic Conference competition for the first time since 2013.
Increased fan support usually follows success, but attendance has remained stagnant for most of the Cougars’ home games.
The Cougars brought in an average of about 631 fans in their first season at Fertitta Center. In almost every home game, the attendance ranged between 500-575 with few exceptions.
Most recently, Houston brought in over 1,000 in its final home game of the season, a 3-2 loss to UConn.
The average attendance in 2019 is an increase from years past when the team played in the Athletics/Alumni Center, where they averaged only 439 people per game in 2016.
There’s one difference, however.
Fertitta Center holds 7,100. Plenty of seats are left to fill.
Meanwhile, the men’s basketball team drew in 5,205 people for the exhibition game Saturday afternoon against Angelo State.
Attendance at Fertitta Center has not been the best for the volleyball team, but players and fans alike enjoy the new atmosphere at games in the arena.
“Home’s always great, especially at the Fertitta,” said senior outside hitter Megan Duncan, who was on the team during its days at the Athletics Center. “It has a homey kind of feel. It’s only us in here. All eyes are on us. We can perform to the best of our abilities here.”
Duncan is not alone when describing the unique vibe at home games.
“It’s not comparable to other sports. There are a lot of families here and a lot of high school students looking at these players as role models,” said alumna Leen Basharat. “A lot of people here know volleyball, which makes it super spirited. It’s live. Super competitive.”
When compared to other AAC schools, attendance at UH is on par with other programs, according to the athletics department.
Marketing budgets for each sport are determined before the season begins and are based on the number of home games teams have. The athletics department uses social media, emails to students and fans and printed advertising as its main forms of promotion.
However, views on how to boost attendance numbers differ.
“You see (advertisements for games) around campus occasionally,” Duncan said, “but maybe they need to be broadcasted a little more.”
Others believe the on-court product is what will get more people to show up to games.
“For the most part, I love what our crowds have done,” said head coach David Rehr. “I think the biggest thing is if we win games, people will come.”
The crowds at games have a big impact on the action on the court. When the energy slacks, team staff takes notice.
For instance, after a Houston loss to Tulane, Rehr reflected on the atmosphere at Fertitta Center.
“Today was kind of flat,” Rehr said. “I don’t know why,”
The attendance for that game was 454, the lowest all season for the Cougars against AAC competition.
Regardless of the sport, UH depends on students to fill the stands because they are more likely to be emotionally invested.
Edwin Mascorro, a public relations senior and UH superfan known to attend a great deal of the Cougars’ sporting events across all teams, agrees more fans should attend.
“At the end of the day, we have our peers that are wearing Houston across their chest, and they are representing our brand,” he said. “People should come out and cheer for them.”