The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul Athletics looks to boost student attendance at Wintrust

Sofy Myers
Forward Jorie Allen reaches for a rebound in an exhibition against Lewis Oct. 29, 2023 at Wintrust Arena.

Cheers echo off empty seats at Wintrust Arena as a cohort of student fans gather to watch DePaul basketball. Though DIBS and the dance team try to make their Blue Demon pride reach the nosebleeds, those seats are often empty.

Far off, it seems, are the glory days of DePaul basketball when legendary men’s coach Ray Meyer was at the helm of a program that achieved 21 postseason appearances from 1942-1984. 

Back then, DePaul basketball played at Alumni Hall on the Lincoln Park campus before moving to Allstate Arena in Rosemont in 1980. DePaul basketball, including several strong women’s teams, played there until 2017 when Wintrust Arena in South Loop opened. 

Now, both of DePaul’s basketball teams play at Wintrust. 

KT Raimey, DePaul senior and men’s basketball guard said he enjoys playing at Wintrust, though he thinks more student attendance would enhance the overall atmosphere on game days.

“We have to get more people to show up because when we have more people, the games get even more fun,” Raimey said. 

Attendance at DePaul men’s home games totaled 60,671 in the 2022-23 season.  Though Wintrust can seat 10,000, men’s basketball attendance per game averaged 4,045 fans. 

Women’s games recorded 27,639 in Wintrust attendance for the season.

DePaul Athletics planned new ways to draw more student attendance at Wintrust this season, according to Kassidy Brown, senior associate athletic director for marketing and communications. 

Brown said the marketing department is tapping into students’ affinity for giveaway items to draw a larger crowd at basketball games. 

“We’re leaning into the smaller quantity but higher-value giveaways,” Brown said.  

This will include Hawaiian shirts, bucket hats and a PlayStation 5 later in the season at a women’s game.

DeWayne Peevy, vice president and director of athletics, is thinking bigger down the road.

“I want to give away some big things like scholarships,” Peevy said. “I think there’s room to grow and that’s the fun part.”

Oct. 26, DePaul Athletics unveiled a series of enhancements for the 2023-24 season that Brown said will help foster a more exciting overall game day experience. 

Fans can expect an expanded team merchandise shop, a mobile order option for concessions, a 15% student discount on concessions and a dedicated DIBS meeting location, among other improvements.

Though enticing giveaways and new concessions perks may attract more fans, getting to Wintrust Arena can be an obstacle for students. 

“A lot of our main sports are off campus, which makes it a lot harder to go and support the athletes,” said Hannah Smith, a DePaul sophomore and women’s tennis player.

However, DePaul sponsors free shuttles from the Lincoln Park campus to Wintrust Arena and back for students on game days. 

“I’m a player and I didn’t even know about the shuttles,” Raimey said. 

To spread the word, Brown said the Athletics marketing team will place door hangers in each residence hall with information about the logistics of attending games. It will include a QR code that allows students to claim their free tickets and free spots on the shuttle bus. 

“We’re putting together a video to identify how to get your ticket, the bus location, the process of getting dropped off at Wintrust and the return back,” Brown said. 

Peevy said DePaul is hoping to partner with rideshare services to make Wintrust accessible for students who are not coming from Lincoln Park. 

Once students and other fans arrive at the arena, DePaul works with local Chicago authorities to ensure Wintrust and the surrounding area are safe, according to Courtney Day, DePaul Athletics representative. 

Security professionals monitor the arena and surrounding areas “around the clock,” Day said, in addition to metal detectors upon entry and a clear bag policy.

With these new efforts as a starting point, Brown said there is great potential for increased Blue Demon attendance. 

“I think students care and want to be brought into the sports culture, but it might not be there quite yet,” she said. 

She also hopes those who already attend games and follow DePaul sports will recruit more to do the same.

“It takes some influencers, it also takes some wins,” she said.

DePaul’s men’s basketball had a 10-23 losing record last season, while women’s basketball was 16-17. Some studies show that successful teams draw greater attendance. 

Though it’s considered a rebuilding year for the women, Raimey, the DePaul men’s guard, has high hopes for his team.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of size,” he said. “We have a lot to show you guys this year.”

Editor’s Note: The attendance figures listed have been corrected from referring to “DePaul Fans” and “Opposing fans” to accurately representing 60,761 as the total attendance for men’s home games and 27,639 as the total attendance for women’s home games. The statement that read “men’s basketball attendance ranged between 15 – 4,045 DePaul fans” is corrected to “men’s basketball attendance per game averaged 4,045 fans.”

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