On Friday night, Marquette men's basketball played their first ever regular season game at the Al McGuire Center on campus. It was a fantastic event, and I'm glad to say that I was there.
Why? Because I don't expect to ever see this happen again.
That's not really an unstable branch for me to climb out on. From the get go, the athletic department pointed out that this would not be a regular event. In this particular case, Marquette was unable to use the BMO Harris Bradley Center because Cirque du Soleil was there all weekend. It's possible that the schedule was slightly fouled up by not playing the traditional post-finals Saturday game in order to get Luke Fischer eligible for one extra game. Mid-year transfers are not very prevalent, so extending the schedule in that manner isn't likely to be necessary on a regular basis.
But, even with possible scheduling snafus, I still don't expect Marquette to look to repeat this event. Let's walk through the ticketing process. Marquette first put the tickets on sale to season ticket holders, with each account being allowed to purchase two tickets. A little while later, an email went out, notifying season ticket holders that they were now able to purchase two more tickets. Having already purchased my two tickets, I purchased two more. During the second availability, I was only able to get tickets in the silver benches in the upper deck.
I make this clarification for a reason. Here's a picture from my seats in section 115 at the first media time out of the first half.
Directly across from me is the Alabama A&M bench. I'm pretty sure that empty bank of seats was reserved for AAMU, most likely due to an NCAA guideline. There always seems to be visiting fans behind the visiting bench. But scattered through the rest of the lower bowl on that side of the court are empty blue chairback seats. Directly behind me, there were empty chairback seats. Scattered through my side of the arena were empty chairback seats.
These are tickets that were purchased by men's basketball season ticket holders that went unused. A few here, a few there, I get that. You buy the tickets, something comes up, you can't find anyone to take them from you or emergency strikes and you never get a chance. I get that. But there were A LOT of empty seats for a game that was going to have limited seating in the first place.
The next thing you'll see is the empty corners. All week long, I noticed a push from Marquette's social media. At least once a day, there was a note letting us know that there were still tickets available for Friday night's game against Alabama A&M. The latest one was on Friday at 11:39am.
The very first game at the McGuire Center didn't sell out.
Now, I understand the complaint about the $40 and $30 price tags for a game against Alabama A&M that's not included in the season ticket package. Personally, when I see the price on my season tickets and remember that I have a mandatory donation to the Blue & Gold Fund attached to those, I understand that the price is what the price is. In addition to that, I noticed that Marquette contracted with an outside security company for this game in addition to a presence by MU's own Department of Public Safety. That adds a little extra cost to putting on a show like this. That cost needs to be offset by selling tickets. The official announced attendance for the game was only 3,080, well short of the listed capacity of 3,700.
We have the combination of 1) people buying tickets and not using them and 2) people not buying tickets at all. Add on to that the fact that Marquette is never going to play a high quality opponent in a situation like this, as every single Big East game and any high major (or even high mid-major) will easily draw more than the announced attendance of right around 12,000 at the NJIT game earlier this year.
I hope you were able to make it to the McGuire Center on Friday night. It will almost assuredly be the only time a men's basketball game ever takes place there.