Northwestern to start charging for more sports

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

The Northwestern Athletic Department expanded the practice of charging admission to women’s soccer, field hockey and softball games for the 2012-2013 seasons. Prior to this change, the only sports that had an admission charge for non-students were football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, men’s soccer and volleyball.

Doug Meffley, senior associate director of athletic communications, said the expansion is “more in line with what peer institutions across the Big Ten are doing.” Across the conference, it is not uncommon for schools to charge everyone admission, including students.

The change in policy will not affect students who bring WildCARDs to gain admission. Otherwise, the charge is $7 for the general public, $4 for high school students and $3 for individuals in groups of 15 or more.

“We don’t have a number on revenue,” Meffley said. “We’re not doing it to make a ton of money.”

Rather, the charge was intended to put all the programs on the same playing field, he said.

NU’s field hockey team currently ranks in the top ten, having won 14 of 16 games. With a late season run, the softball team qualified for the NCAA tournament. The women’s soccer program hired esteemed coach Michael Moynihan last off season after he served 19 seasons at the helm of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Meffley hopes the new policy will better demonstrate the quality of NU’s athletic teams.

“It puts a nice value on student athletes,” Meffley said. “It’s an entertainment that we provide in games. You get charged to go to a high school or junior high game. These are Division I Big Ten events.”

Nicole Catalano and Lauren Griswald, high school field hockey players who traveled from Wisconsin to see Sunday’s field hockey game against Central Michigan, weren’t surprised by the $4 admission charge they paid to watch the match.

“It’s much less than our high school football games,” Catalano said.

Perry Nigro, a School of Continuing Studies student also attending Sunday’s field hockey game, got in free with his WildCARD but paid $7 for his friend Megan McCune to be granted admission.

“I was surprised at the first game I came to that they were charging,” Nigro said. “I understand they are trying to raise revenue however they can, so I’m not opposed to it. Seven dollars might be a little steep, but I don’t really have a strong objection to it.”

McCune agreed that paying the $7 was worth it and wouldn’t discourage her from attending games.

“It potentially lends some credibility to sports,” she said. “It’s a little more on even footing with the bigger sports.”

But Meffley explained the difficulty of charging for sports held off campus. He said some of these sports are “not conducive to being massive spectator sports.” The only NU sports that do not charge admission now are men’s and women’s tennis, cross country, fencing, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s golf. 

So far, the athletic department has not noted a difference in attendance due to the new charge. In fact, Meffley said that overall attendance at sporting events has risen in recent years.

Meffley attributed the spike to the expansion of the sports marketing department. He said he believes that there will be “more personal attention” to each sport, explaining that now every team has its own marketing representative.

“Every sport has been designated a marketing contact,” he said. “They reach out to club teams, people that come to camps and market to them. They’ve done a great job of bringing folks to games.”