Soccer sets attendance standard

Gophers lead the Big Ten in attendance this season with 963 fans per game.

Drew Claussen

When the Gophers soccer team takes on Nebraska in this weekendâÄôs regular season finale, it may be playing for a spot in next weekendâÄôs Big Ten Championships in Evanston, Ill.

One thing is sure âÄî regardless of the outcome: Their fans will come to watch them play.

Through seven home games this season, the Gophers have drawn 6,738 fans for an average of 963 per game, more than 100 higher than any other Big Ten school.

âÄúI think itâÄôs great for the community âÄî soccer is big in the community,âÄù Senior Associate Athletics Director Regina Sullivan said. âÄúItâÄôs fun for us administratively to see that kind of support around a program.âÄù

Head coach Mikki Denney Wright echoes SullivanâÄôs pleasure concerning attendance.

âÄúItâÄôs something when we first came here eight years ago we felt like this place could explode with attendance,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúItâÄôs a product of having great kids from Minnesota and a great connection to the community.âÄù

Denney Wright also credits the marketing staff, athletic communications and the rest of the staff that contributes to every home game.

According to Sullivan, the soccer teamâÄôs historically good attendance does little to offset the costs of operating the team because there isnâÄôt enough revenue generated.

âÄúIâÄôm not sure those two [attendance and funding] are tied as much,âÄù Sullivan said. âÄúThe financial piece isnâÄôt really part of the factor as much as soccer is a great fit to have to the collegiate level in Minnesota.âÄù

Although the Gophers have only had seven home games so far in 2011, they have drawn more fans than most Big Ten womenâÄôs soccer teams, and some have played more games at home.

âÄúThe crowd is so much fun âÄî itâÄôs awesome to see  full stands every single game,âÄù junior defender Marissa Price said. âÄúWe go to other places and we still have more fans for Minnesota than the other team. I think our opponents hate it.âÄù

According to Denney Wright, the style of play that Minnesota implements also contributes to the teamâÄôs large fan base.

âÄúItâÄôs a great environment out here,âÄù Denney Wright said. âÄúI think we play a style of play thatâÄôs very fun, too. Most of the games are really competitive.âÄù

Minnesota plays its home games at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium, which is located next to the St. Paul campus in Falcon Heights.

The facility opened in 1999 and has a listed capacity of 1,000, a number that is often exceeded.

The stadium was named in honor of Elizabeth Lyle Robbie, the first female owner of a professional sports team. Her daughter, Deborah Olson, donated $900,000 to help build the stadium in RobbieâÄôs name.