According to the latest figures, the University of Washington has distributed 50,962 tickets for tomorrow’s 6pm game against Stanford. Considering CenturyLink Field has a capacity of 68,000, that is still a lot of empty seats. With this game being billed by the University as the “Blackout of the Century,” the athletic department may want to head to Lowe’s and get enough black paint to slather several thousand seat-backs.
Now, you might be thinking, this is nothing new. Only 53,742 showed up for the season opener against San Diego State, and an only slightly improved 54,922 filled the seats to watch the Huskies clobber Portland State. That is correct, but the thing is, low attendance in non-conference games against lower level opponents is to be expected. Washington, as a program, is not at a point where sell-out crowds can be assumed at unappealing games. Not to mention, school wasn’t even in session yet, which obviously cuts down on the number of students that can attend. No one was surprised or concerned to see attendance in the 50’s for those two games.
But now? This is a home game against a Pac-12 opponent that is ranked top-10 in the nation. It’s an incredibly important match-up that will help to determine the hierarchy of the Pac-12 North this season. School is fully in session, and the extra marketing push for the “Blackout of the Century” has been going on for almost two weeks. So the fact that, as of right now, there are over 17,000 unsold tickets is unsettling. Why the terrible attendance?
September 15, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford’s seats look pretty empty as well. Just don’t look at the field. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that the biggest culprit is probably the time of the game. It is a Thursday at 6 in the afternoon. That makes getting to the game pretty difficult for anyone who gets off work around five and has to make their way to CenturyLink from outside the city. Not to mention, a 6pm start means that anyone living outside of Seattle will be arriving home sometime around midnight. Even among my fellow UW students, the idea that we will get home fairly late and then have class the next morning is a serious bummer that has been widely discussed. It won’t stop many students that otherwise would have attended, but if 18-22 year-olds are annoyed by it, you can bet adults with 9-5 jobs and families to deal with have a solid reason to sit this one out.
I believe the venue is contributing to the problem as well. The Huskies are lucky to be playing in a full-on NFL stadium during the rebuilding of Husky Stadium. Without CenturyLink, who knows where this game would take place. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it does not feel like home. It says Seahawks in the end zone, the tailgating is limited, and overall, it just feels hollow. I am certainly not the first to say this, but I think it’s likely that many fans are simply waiting until next year, when the brand new Husky Stadium will be open, to start shelling out ticket money. Then, there will be a fresh buzz around the team and things will be back to normal while somehow being totally new.
There is also an argument to be made that after the Huskies blowout loss to LSU and the recent string of routs at the hands of other top-25 teams, the fan-base doesn’t have the stomach for another embarrassment. To be honest, I don’t really buy it. Considering 59,738 tickets were sold for the last home game of the dreaded 0-12 2008 season against UCLA, that argument only really applies if you can honestly tell me that the fan-base feels more pessimistic about the Huskies now than they did in 2008.
To totally understand how bad this lack of attendance is, we will have to wait until the USC game. At that point, we will have a marquee match-up of Pac-12 powers, but this time, it will be on a Saturday. If only 50,000 people show up then, start to worry. For now, keep an eye on the situation, shake your head at the empty rows of seats, and hope that the Huskies manage to upset Stanford, something that would certainly sell some tickets.