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What can be done about low attendance at Oklahoma City basketball regionals?

The only downer at the NCAA women’s basketball regional this weekend at The Peake was the attendance.

I wrote about the sparse crowds and how that might affect Oklahoma City’s chance of getting not just a Women’s Final Four but also more basketball regionals. You can read that column by clicking here.

It’s pretty clear to me that the next couple basketball regionals that Oklahoma City hosts — the men’s sub-regional next year and the women’s regional the year after — need to have much better crowds. This is important if you like to see NCAA regionals come to town. You don’t want to have a run of regionals with poor attendance.

I assume that the men’s sub-regional will draw good crowds because, well, the men’s sub-regionals tend to draw good crowds. Though I will say this — Oklahoma City hasn’t always had great draws for sub-regionals. A few years back, the men came to town and the crowds were not great. The weather stunk — we had one of those March Oklahoma ice storms — but even with that, the crowds weren’t great at all.

Still, the regional round for the women can be a tough draw regardless. Have a local draw or a transcendent player, and it makes it way easier. But Oklahoma City can’t always expect to have the Sooners, the Cowgirls or Brittney Griner in town.

So, Oklahoma City may need to figure out an alternate plan to pump up attendance. I’m neither a marketer nor an event planner, and perhaps these ideas have been tried, floated, failed, etc., by the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association. But here are a couple ideas:

* Figure out a way to bring in youth teams. The most obvious absence from the stands this weekend at The Peake was little girls. No youth teams in matching uniforms. No screaming masses of pigtails. If you’ve ever been to the Women’s College World Series, little girls are an obvious part of every crowd. And they are one of the things that make it great.

But it’s also great for them. Little girls get to see their sport at its best, and they get to dream.

Youth teams absolutely need to be drawn to the women’s regional next time around. Set up a deal for youth teams. Discounted tickets. Group rates. Market that to YMCAs or city youth leagues.

The All-Sports Association offered $10 tickets this weekend. It was a great deal, but it was an offer extended the day before the semifinals. If you’re involved with a youth team, you’d need more lead time than 12 or 24 hours. Give girls teams a chance to make plans to come to the regional for a discounted price, and I suspect they’ll come.

* Lace women’s basketball ticket purchases with softball incentives. There are lots of folks in Oklahoma City who want to go to the Women’s College World Series. Since that’s an All-Sports Association production, too, why not give people who buy women’s regional basketball tickets a softball deal?

Maybe they could have an earlier chance to buy softball tickets. Or a free upgrade to a better seating section. Or a reduced deal on parking. Or a front-of-the-line spot for autograph sessions. There are all sorts of little carrots that could be dangled.

* Run ads during Thunder game broadcasts. Tim Brassfield, the All-Sports executive director, told me that they had as many marketing dollars this year as any women’s regional of the past. He felt good about the marketing’s reach.

But here’s one hole that I see: Thunder broadcasts.

As near as I remember, I saw no ads for the women’s regional during Thunder games. Putting ads on during the broadcast wouldn’t be a fix-all, but at the very least, people watching those games are basketball fans. They like the sport. They take time for the sport. And there are lots and lots of them. Those Thunder broadcasts are watched by millions. To me, that would be an audience to which that would be good to market.

Listen, I’m not suggesting that any one of these ideas is golden. Heck, all of them might flop. But I have to think something can be done.

I know this: something needs to be done.


Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›