Wildside hosts theme nights to increase basketball game attendance


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Students cheer on Northwestern’s basketball team Saturday against Nebraska. Wildside, NU’s student section, has been working on different theme days in an effort get more students to attend basketball games.

Olivia Exstrum, Reporter

As part of Wildside’s effort to encourage different student groups to come together to attend Northwestern athletic events, the student section will host its first Multicultural Student Affairs night at Sunday’s men’s basketball game against Minnesota.

“We’ve really just been working on making the arena and the student section the most inclusive thing,” Wildside spokeswoman Noor Hasan said. “We want it to be a place for students.”

Sunday will be the first time a game’s theme will revolve around Multicultural Student Affairs. Those attending are encouraged to follow the theme “Express Yourself!” by wearing something representing their community, which can include a cappella groups, dance teams, ethnic communities and religious groups.

“I thought it’d be a real cool opportunity to harness the energy that there is in Multicultural Student Affairs,” Hasan, a Weinberg senior, said. “All of those communities make up the social fabric of Northwestern.”

Ryan Chenault, assistant director of marketing for the athletic department, said he is “completely supportive” of Wildside’s efforts to draw more students to games. He also thought the theme nights have helped the team improve student attendance. He said although there is a certain group of die-hards who attend every game, this approach encourages students who may not normally go to a basketball game to become involved.

“We want to expose different types of people to basketball and if they can do it in the comfort of their friends or the groups they’re comfortable with, so be it,” he said. “Hopefully they have a good time and want to come back to more games.”

(Men’s Basketball: Excitement for Wildcats growing at Welsh-Ryan Arena)

As a member of the International Student Association, McCormick freshman Alex Wang, said he thinks the theme nights are a good way to bring people together. Basketball is a universal sport, unlike American football, Wang said. He recalled during orientation for international students last fall, some students attended a football game and could not follow the game.

“With basketball, it’s more understood,” Wang said.

Wildside has hosted past theme nights, including a night for peer adviser groups, residential colleges and Dance Marathon teams. Hasan said the attendance at the games has remained fairly consistent, but one of the most successful was for the Jan. 25 home game against Iowa. The game was part of a Big Ten-wide annual event called the Coaches vs. Cancer Suits and Sneakers Awareness Weekend, where coaches from all over the country wore sneakers with their suits to raise awareness for cancer research.

“I think the best thing about the theme nights and the community atmosphere that they contribute to is that students come to the games with a community-based intention,” Hasan said. “It really ignites a personal school pride.”

Sunday’s event will begin with a pre-game tailgate at 3:30 p.m. in Anderson Hall, with food and drinks provided to multicultural student groups. The game will tip off at 5 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

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