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Can free Wi-Fi increase college football’s attendance?

College football attendance remains flat and athletic departments have responded with in-stadium Wi-Fi. Is this enough to boost attendance?

Source: Cabroliving
Source: Cabroliving

With the 2014-2015 college football season approaching, programs continue to face a challenge off the field: declining attendance. Beginning in the early 2000’s, attendance began to plateau. Athletic departments across the nation have been seeking ways to attract more fans ever since. One solution has been making Wi-Fi available inside the stadium, and outside for tailgates.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index found that by the end of the year there will be more mobile-connected devices than there are people. For young professionals and college students, the internet ranked as important as air, food, water and shelter. The goal of Wi-Fi in stadiums is to make the game experience as comfortable and easy as the at-home experience. Fred Kirsch, publisher and vice president of content at Kraft Sports, believes:

“Mobile is where it is at . . . There’s a base-level expectation, you simply need to have connectivity because that’s what you have at home. . . . It’s the way you not only attract but retain fans, so they know the next time they go back it won’t be a productivity black hole. . . . They can watch and do other things at the same time.”

While many athletic departments are installing multi-million dollar Wi-Fi systems to lure fans back, they may be missing the mark. Cisco reported that over 57 percent of those surveyed like watching games at home, while found that 61 percent still like going to games, but 83 percent feel priced out of attending.

Wi-Fi can help the fan experience, but the idea of making the stadium experience more like the at-home experience is an expensive solution to a much larger problem. Despite loving their school and football teams, many fans balk at shelling out big money for the best match-ups. On top of this, the audience at the stadium is frustrated by TV timeouts. In July, Forbes published an article detailing how fan’s wallets and pocketbooks are deciding the way people enjoy their entertainment. If this is the case, free Wi-Fi is the first step and not the ultimate solution for increasing attendance at college footbal games.

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