Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
It's up to players and coaches to provide a good show, but the University of New Mexico intends to give women's basketball fans more bang for their buck during the 2014-15 season.
UNM is cutting season-ticket prices, eliminating parking fees in most lots and increasing fan access to players. These and other changes in game-day structure are intended to improve the fan experience and boost home attendance for women's basketball, which has steadily declined in recent years.
"We still have great crowds, among the best in the country for women's basketball, but we may have fallen asleep at the wheel to some extent over the years," UNM athletic director Paul Krebs said during a media conference Friday at the Pit. "We've raised prices and probably made things more problematic for fans. We think some of these changes will help."
Parking and season-ticket cost reductions are among the more significant changes. They include:
Parking in all lots except those directly adjacent to the Pit will be free. (Passes will still be required on the north and west sides of the Pit.)
Season-ticket prices are cut by 5 percent in all areas outside of the Lobo Level.
Lobo Level season tickets are reduced from $418 to $250.
Lobo Level seats are padded chairs located on the bottom four rows of the Pit's east side. They are priced higher than other seats, and fans are required to make Lobo Club donations to secure season tickets for both Lobo Level and chairback season tickets.
The required Lobo Club donations are being cut significantly for women's basketball, however. Instead of $100 for chairbacks and $200 for all Lobo Level seats, donations will be $50 for chairbacks, $75 for Lobo Level rows 2-4 and $100 for Lobo Level row 1.
Required donations for all other seating areas have been eliminated.
Krebs and UNM women's coach Yvonne Sanchez hope the reductions will bring more fans closer to the action. A majority of the Lobo Level seats were unused during recent seasons, leaving a large gap between fans and the Pit floor on the arena's east side. Finding a way to fill those seats was one of many suggestions made by fans during a season-ticket-holder forum last season.
Krebs formed a women's bas- ketball task force during the 2013-14 season charged with improving the fan experience at home games.
"We're trying to reach out to our fans," Krebs said. "They've given us a lot of constructive feedback and we're implementing some of those suggestions."
A defined student section for women's games will now be located in Section Y - the same section used for men's basketball games.
Women's basketball players also will be available to meet fans and sign autographs immediately after weekend games. The players will gather at the Lobo Level.
"I think it's a great idea," Sanchez said. "I know players have been accessible to fans in other sports like volleyball and soccer. There's no reason we can't do it."
Lobo players also will take part in delivery of season tickets. Player deliveries will be selected at random.
Krebs conceded that UNM is not able to accommodate all fan requests regarding women's basketball. Many have complained about the identical start times for men's and women's games during Mountain West Conference play.
The Mountain West's "mirror" scheduling format is not likely to change anytime soon, Krebs said.
"We're a voice in the wilderness when it comes to that," he said. "We suggest changing the mirror schedule at the Mountain West meetings every year but it doesn't get a lot of traction. We seem to be the only ones concerned with that."
Krebs said UNM will continue to adjust home tipoff times when possible to avoid direct conflicts between men's and women's games.
LOBO-AGGIE NOTE: For the second straight season, UNM and New Mexico State will meet just once in women's basketball (Dec. 7 in Las Cruces). Krebs said the programs will resume their traditional home-and-home series in 2015-16. Roman holiday
It's on to Italy for the UNM women's basketball team where it will play four exhibition games D5