Attendance at Iowa games has been (to my eyes and according to the figures) improving lately, but is still a bit sparse, especially in the student sections. Here are some suggestions for the folks at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to pull in more fans.
Reach out to foreign students. According to the New York Times, 1 out of every 10 freshmen this year is from outside the United States, and 350 freshmen this year are from China. Studying in a foreign country can be a lonely experience, and many of these students would welcome the chance to get together and do something fun, social and cheap. For Chinese students in particular, basketball might be an attractive option, as the sport has become much more popular there post-Yao Ming.
More diverse food options. I like stale pretzels as much as anyone, but the food offerings have not changed since 1990 and need an update. Especially considering the odd times many of our games start (thanks Big Ten Network), the possibility of eating something akin to a real meal at the stadium would be nice. Panchero’s has a "Big Burrito Lift" on the scoreboard, so why not an actual big burrito concession?
End the "Big Burrito Lift." Or change it up somehow. The "Delta Dental smile cam" has also gotten repetitive. Stop singling out cute girls and winsome tots: find the guy with the ugliest, most chaw-stained, gap-toothed grin you can find, and hold him up as an example of the importance of regular check-ups.
Speaking of dentistry, one problem with the arena is that it is surrounded by nothing but apartments, parking lots, and the School of Dentistry (the nearest bar or restaurant is a good three blocks away and requires crossing the Coralville strip). The solution is simple: replace the School of Dentistry with a complex of bars and restaurants.* The British have shown that tall glasses of beer and intense sport fandom are sufficient for good oral hygiene.
Wi-fi that works. No joke here. It’s just kind of spotty.
Have Wayne Neuzil sing the national anthem every time. The quality of the anthem varies considerably from singer to singer and often veers into melisma-heavy American Idol territory. Neuzil is a pro: operatic, on pitch, confident, short and sweet. If he’s available, he’s the best. Or consider alternatives to singers: one of the best anthems this year was, I thought, the guy who played it on an electric violin. It had a Hendrix-at-Woodstock feel to it. The squares didn’t get it, but it’s good to shake things up from time to time. Plus there are lots of student musicians out there who could use the gig. Doesn’t a Star-Spangled Banner by the UI Afro-Cuban Drum Corps, the Double Reed Ensemble or the Horn Choir sound at least intriguing?
Follow Andrew Bogut's example. Bogut, the Australian center for the Milwaukee Bucks, bought out a section of 100 seats at the Bradley Center and held auditions to give away season tickets to the craziest, most creative fans. The section, called Squad 6, has been a great success. For our section, open the auditions to students and the community. There are clever people out there in Iowa City, and this section could lead the way in innovative taunting of the opposition. Possible names for the section: Fran’s Franiacs, Les Jepsen’s Army, the Wade Lookingbill Experience.
Bring back the Human Slinky, and have Herky hunt it for sport throughout the arena.
Better seats for the students. Some BHGP readers were talking about this in the comments the other day, and I tend to agree that the student seats are poorly positioned: watching basketball from behind the basket is no fun, and students are not even in position to effectively taunt Bo Ryan or Tom Izzo. Move the students behind the opponent’s bench and compensate the displaced fans with free liters of cola and t-shirts delivered via a rigged cheerleader t-shirt cannon.
Speaking of which: More and higher caliber t-shirt cannons. Reaching the 10th row via simple throwing is not good enough -- the aristocrats in the first 10 rows do not need t-shirts and will only deign to use them as Christmas gifts for their stable boys. Modify a potato cannon design and you’ll be launching those t-shirts to the 50th row with ease. Encase the t-shirts in some kind of aerodynamic shell for even more distance. Get the engineering department on this.
Introduce our own version of Hockey Bear... named, of course, Hawkeye Bear. The epic University of Alaska-Anchorage intro has won acclaim here before, and there's no reason we can't copy their recipe of space-traveling planet-crushing animals. We even have those gold ventilation pipes that look like talons, so we could have the animal, like, tear the roof off of the place in our version. Here's a sketch:
Last, but most crucially, fix the middle hand dryer in the men’s bathroom by the East entrance. It’s been on the fritz all season.
Thoughts? Suggestions of your own? "Winning" is, of course, the best recipe for attracting fans, so let’s just put that suggestion to the side for now. Also, my experience is mainly with men's basketball, so I don't have any suggestions specific to wrestling, women's basketball, or volleyball; if you have any thoughts there, please include them, too.
* I don't really want to tear down the School of Dentistry. I love dentists. Please continue to fix my teeth.