Shocker readers panel: Fill those seats and thoughts on playing downtown

Get to know the Wichita State basketball readers panel

Members of the Wichita State basketball readers panel talk about their favorite players, both present and past, their most memorable games and some of their game day rituals. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)
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Members of the Wichita State basketball readers panel talk about their favorite players, both present and past, their most memorable games and some of their game day rituals. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

1. Wichita State’s sell-out streak at Koch Arena ended against Southern Nazarene. While WSU’s attendance is the envy of most schools, the empty seats are noticeable, especially in the student section. What’s the solution?

Ty Houseman: I think it starts with better communication. From there, maybe finding a way to use technology to get tickets to students. An app on your phone you could get a ticket through, be able to be notified of when they are available and how many tickets are left for student could help. And if they aren’t going to be used by students, release them to the public sooner than a day or two, and advertise they are available.

Sasha Bouska: As the games get more competitive, attendance will go up. It’s important that the university does a good job of doing a little marketing for ticket sales. Over the last few years, fans have been trained that tickets are not available for the games. Now that single game tickets are attainable, the word needs to be spread to fans that they can afford to go to the games by simply buying tickets through the ticket office.

David Gonzalez: I would reduce the number of student-reserved seats by a third and sell the rest to the public. I believe some of this has to do with Ron and Fred’s departure and a misunderstanding that all student tickets have been claimed.

Either way, it’s sad to see rows and rows of empty seats, particularly among the students who have the opportunity to collect “free” tickets.

Bryan Steele: The student tickets is a tricky situation, because there could be a number of reasons. Are students picking up tickets and not using them? Are there that many unclaimed general admission tickets? If it’s the former, then tracking when a ticket goes unused by a student and having some sort of consequence (no ticket for one or two games, back of the line, etc.) might keep things honest.

If there are unclaimed tickets then the 48-hour window for the general public to claim them should be widened to a week and the athletic department should consider doing targeted advertising on Facebook (low cost and probably just as good as radio/TV). The other unused seats is a more challenging issue, as those are claimed by donors/corporations who have put a lot of money into the athletic department over the years.

Sara Orr Jones: The students are the heartbeat of Koch Arena, so their attendance, either up or down, is immediately felt. Time to double down on promoting the games, the team, ticket pickup times and places, and the pluses in being part of the student fan base known as the Shocker Maniacs.

Mike Burrus: It is disappointing to see open seats at Koch Arena. It is disappointing that the students are choosing not to support the team for some reason(s). It is equally disappointing that the athletic department has not found a way to fill the seats.

First, I would survey the student body to determine why they are not attending the games. If there are obvious, correctable reasons for so many student seats being unclaimed, those reasons should be addressed.

Second, I would REQUIRE the athletic department to distribute every single ticket — by selling them, by giving them to local charities who will commit to use 100 percent of the tickets they receive, or by giving away any unsold tickets beginning one hour before game time.

Patty Beamer: I think the first thing to do is to be thankful for the loyal, solid fans that continue to pay the SASO fees, ticket cost and attend the game.

Many students have families and even if the cost of the tickets were free for a family of four, many parents and children cannot stand for an entire game. Could there be a “family section” in the student area that was roped off with the expectation that families could sit in this area (not behind the pep band) with the understanding they will be able to sit?

Also, I wish there was a Drop Off area close to the arena. Only people with parking passes can get close to the arena. When it is very cold, it would be nice to have a drop off area for elderly and families.

2. What is your biggest concern heading into a crucial part of the non-conference schedule?

Houseman: Being able to win a close game. I felt a little better after Colorado State, because that game was probably closer than the final score. But how will we react and finish a game that is a one- or two-possession game and find a way to win.

Bouska: The team needs to continue to attack the basket as competition ramps up. So far this year, the defense and offensive ball movement have been good, but there has been a tendency to shy away from attacking the basket when the opponent has a larger front line.

Gonzalez: The Shockers have limited opportunities to build on their NCAA resume against good competition. In this case, the Shockers have the opportunity to add two good wins against Big 12 opponents with respectable RPIs. Overall, this portion of the non-conference schedule will either help solidify the their chances for an at-large consideration, or leave them in a position where making it to the NCAA tournament may be decided in St. Louis.

Steele: I just don’t feel like there is enough consistency right now. You really go into a game not knowing who is going to play well. This has some benefit in that there are literally 10 players who could lead the Shockers in scoring, and that makes it difficult for an opponent to scout. But I feel like there are some key players who should be able to impose their will on the game.

Russell Lowden: Foul problems for Shaq Morris.

Beamer: Not winning the OU and OSU games when those are the only opportunities to improve the team’s RPI. However, if the team wins the MVC Tournament, my concern will be a moot point.

Loren Honse: Consistency is my biggest concern. Playing hard has never been our problem but, consistency from key players at all the right moments is going to be what carries us through to the Valley.

3. The Shockers play Oklahoma State on Dec. 17 at Intrust Bank Arena. What is your opinion on WSU playing its most attractive non-conference games at the downtown arena?

Houseman: At this point is looks like bigger school will only want to come to Wichita if they can avoid the Roundhouse. I would rather have this game played at Intrust than play another buy game in Koch Arena. With more seating, more fans can attend and the atmosphere can be electric in both buildings.

Bouska: I’m all for it. Playing at the downtown arena creates extra excitement around the games and allows for 50 percent more people to be in attendance. Over the years, the Shockers have an impeccable record at Intrust, so I don’t think it takes away from the home-court advantage at all.

Gonzalez: Koch Arena is special, but so is Intrust Bank Arena. With more people gathering for this game, the downtown arena offers a unique experience with an NBA-type atmosphere. The concessions are great too, but the cramped seating, not so much. Playing at IBA also provides a good showcase for recruiting and national exposure.

Steele: I think it’s probably the most electric atmosphere of the entire season, knowing that each and every seat sold will have a person there. I really enjoy it and doubt Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would have agreed to schedule us otherwise.

Burrus: As a 37-year season ticket holder, I was originally miffed that the IBA games were excluded from the season-ticket package. I have come to believe that the attractiveness of the annual games at IBA justifies the personal cost. So, I am 100-percent in favor of the annual games downtown. Of greatest importance, it allows non-season ticket holders the opportunity to follow the Shockers live, and I suspect the big-game, big-arena atmosphere benefits the team when it comes to post-season play.

Beamer: I think for the new players especially, but for the entire team, it is good to play in a larger arena to prepare for post season. I think going to OU and playing OSU outside of Koch gives the players a different perspective of what playing in an NCAA Tournament might be, which may help alleviate jitters.

Honse: I say if that's what it takes to bring in bigger, more lucrative games, do it. I'm just as excited to see the games sell out and it's a great precursor to NCAA Tournament play in 2018.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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