When the Gophers soccer team takes on Nebraska in this weekend’s regular season finale, it may be playing for a spot in next weekend’s Big Ten Championships in Evanston, Ill.
One thing is sure — 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.
“I think it’s great for the community — soccer is big in the community,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Regina Sullivan said. “It’s fun for us administratively to see that kind of support around a program.”
Head coach Mikki Denney Wright echoes Sullivan’s pleasure concerning attendance.
“It’s something when we first came here eight years ago we felt like this place could explode with attendance,” Denney Wright said. “It’s a product of having great kids from Minnesota and a great connection to the community.”
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 team’s historically good attendance does little to offset the costs of operating the team because there isn’t enough revenue generated.
“I’m not sure those two [attendance and funding] are tied as much,” Sullivan said. “The financial piece isn’t really part of the factor as much as soccer is a great fit to have to the collegiate level in Minnesota.”
Although the Gophers have only had seven home games so far in 2011, they have drawn more fans than most Big Ten women’s soccer teams, and some have played more games at home.
“The crowd is so much fun — it’s awesome to see full stands every single game,” junior defender Marissa Price said. “We go to other places and we still have more fans for Minnesota than the other team. I think our opponents hate it.”
According to Denney Wright, the style of play that Minnesota implements also contributes to the team’s large fan base.
“It’s a great environment out here,” Denney Wright said. “I think we play a style of play that’s very fun, too. Most of the games are really competitive.”
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 Robbie’s name.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
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