Monday, May 5, 2008

Heinz Field Gameday Atmosphere

One thing we've grown accustomed to at Pitt games is a lack of atmosphere. We all get it, the tailgating situation sucks, the fans can be apathetic most of the time, and overall there seems to be just a general lack of interest. Now this isn't a problem just for the football team, when the Zoo isn't making noise, the entire arena seems dead. Luckily it is easy for 1200 students to make noise in a 12,000 seat arena. In football we have to deal with a student section that is not always filled, an open ended stadium, and a team that has struggled in the past. All of those factors mean that the noise level isn't the same. Before you think I'm just ranting about the fans keep reading.

I was at a meeting with Steve Pederson and Dave Wannstedt where they challenged myself as well as other student leaders to improve the gameday atmosphere. While others were arguing that free t-shirts and hotdogs were the only way to get people to come, I argued that making the in game experience better was the real key for improving attendance (other than winning of course). Some people on SGB and other organizations felt I was crazy. Luckily Dr. Kathy Humphrey, Chris Ferris, and some other fellow student leaders agreed.

During the conclusion of the meeting, I along with our SGB president and Program Council Lecture Director was placed in charge of trying to figure out ways to make the in game experience better. One thing we all agreed upon was that there doesn't seem to be anything engaging the fans to make them feel more included in the game. Sure we want to have a beach ball in the student section and to incorporate other ideas to make the entire stadium seem like one cohesive unit. However, we felt that there was one big thing that Pitt hasn't used to our advantage yet. We have that massive jumbotron that usually is one big advertisement the entire game. Have you ever notice how excited people get when the Heinz ketchup flows??? That is why we decided that one of the most effective ways to improve the atmosphere is to use the jumbotron to get the crowd involved. Have you ever been to a Pens game and seen how they use a small outdated jumbotron to get the crowd fired up? Well, why can't we use our state of the art equipment to get our fans fired up?

During my last week of vacation before the summer semester starts, I am working to create video's and such to get the crowd involved. Things like showing a blue alarm going off with an airhorn signaling Code Blue (yes I know it is the code for death but just roll with it) for when the crowd needs to get pumped up on a big play. Also bring back the Panther growling on big third downs to let the team know we need noise (remember when we did that during the WaHa years?). Little things like player highlight packages such as when a player gets the ball, so a little highlight of him after the play (Heinz Field becoming overcast a.k.a. Shady, or Mo "Money in the Bank" Williams"). Also since we don't have the worlds most educated fans, we can use the jumbotron to get the fans to shut up when we are on offense.

There are endless possibilities here, and I hope that we can use this to our advantage. That is why I am encouraging all Cat Basket readers to email, post, or discuss any ideas that you might have to improve our in game atmosphere to: 1. help our team and 2. improve the atmosphere so that people will come to the game even when the team isn't performing as well as we would like.

So please, if you have any ideas let us know. I understand if you don't want to post since our fan base loves to turn on each other, but if you do, don't be afraid to email us: or

Hopefully we can use this to help make the gameday experience better and to keep Heinz Field packed.


Anonymous said...

Completely agree with your jumbotron ideas. The other students who think that t-shirts and hot dogs are the answer just don't understand. The kids that come just for free hot dogs are the type of kids that leave at half-time.

I believe a lot of the problem is that the students feel no connection with the team. If you asked a random student, particularly a girl to name as many players on the team as she could I would be shocked if she could name 2 or 3.

If you remember when Pitt basketball started to get really big (Knight and Paige days) it was because the students and city felt a connection with the team. Paige, Knight and Troutman have to be the most popular Pitt Bball players ever. Things like the "JP head-band" and the "50-cent Inda Club intro" were awesome.

Gaining this connection is not as hard with the Bball team because there are only 7-8 players who see the court, and they aren't hiding behind helmets.

I like where you were going with the personalized highlights for each player because this gives the students a chance to get to know the players better. However, I think this like anything should only be used in moderation.

1. It should only be used for impact players (Shady, McKillop, Romeus) and whoever else starts to step up

2. I don't think a whole highlight is necessary, you just need something catchy like that Spongebob snippet they do in WVU for the kicker (not as lame though). I suck at coming up with stuff like this, but maybe play that eminem song "guess whose back"

3. Take advantage of nicknames, pictures of players off the field, or whatever.

4. The fans will get used to it and will participate since they will know it is coming after Shady rips a 20 yard run.

Bottomline, being a student I feel that 90 % of Pitt students do not follow the team, and therefore feel no connection with the players. That is the most important thing along with winning to make the students come.

Why would they come to see a bunch of guys that they don't know? We need to start building the star players up and getting a connection with the students.

Every popular team in Pittsburgh has to have players that fans love:

Steelers: Big Ben, Polamalu,...,Hines Ward

Pens: Crosby, Malkin,..., Max Talbot

Pirates: Nobody, and that along with them losing is why nobody cares.

Pitt: Shady, McKillop, and whoever else you can make popular

max greenwald said...

the pep rally - the closest thing we have to a real tradition - is a nice idea. I think we should build on that. At Notre Dame, they have a huge rally every friday night in their basketball arena, and famous football alumni come in and talk, the band plays, and the cheerleaders and the players and everyone shows up - its a huge event.

I dont expect that we could ever get to Notre Dame status, at least not for a while, but if we had a pep rally in the pete, something more effective than the bonfire thing on the cathedral lawn, it could have a lasting impact. If it was every friday, it could turn into an event, the place to be, before all the partying ensues.

Im just throwing ideas out, but you could set up some games outside the pete, on that lawn for kids to participate in.

one last thing: if the players and the students all walked from towers to the pete and picked up people along the way, it could make for a cool atmosphere the night before.

I understand this has nothing to do with the gameday experience, but its a start

DPJ said...

Well you should have seen how pissed people where when I said I was going to wake up the quad with airhorns on gameday before I head to the stadium. One girl said that if I woke her up she wouldn't go to the game. At that point a guy in the room told her she was a bad fan who probably doesn't go to games anyway. The girl that made that comment is also working for the athletics department trying to get more students to buy tickets.

Anonymous said...

Pitt needs to get back to tradition to excite the fans. Every great college team has traditional uniforms. They are known for these. Example: USC or Texas. What Pitt needs to do is return to its glory days. Get back to the old Pitt Script. Get back to the old Pitt Panther. I realize when Peterson changed the uniforms the first time around it was to generate excitement. However, this excitement is now here and the team is to thank for that. Let's complete it and say "We're Back" by going back to the old Pitt script of the glory days. Even if they want to keep the new colors, I think it would be great to return to the old uniforms of the Dorsett, or Marino days.

max greenwald said...

pitt script might incite enthusiasm for a game, if anything. Jerseys don't get people excited anymore that bobblehead giveaways. If we gave away Marino bobbleheads, then people would come.

The only way for students to feel like they are a part of something, like they have a stake in it, is to actually make them apart of it. Doing something for them, in this case changing jerseys, is a passive more from a fan's angle. As much as the beach ball is a simple idea, it gives fans a chance to participate in something, anything.

We need more beach balls.

Michael said...

max, giving away free stuff for the games would not increase attendance significantly at all. the actual game experience needs to be more entertaining. i do like the idea of the giant jumbotron saying things like "clap your hards." something as simple as that can energize the good fans, and maybe even some of the bad fans.
last year there were four girls in the front row next to me jones, dpj, et al, and they looked completely dispassionate during the game. they never moved... at all. they never even talked to each other, never cheered. never stood. i hope they enjoyed the game, because they kinda killed my buzz a couple of times.
the only way we can get people to come to the games is let them understand that the games can be fun for them. that can't be done by giving away free things. people don't go to the pens games and hope they get a free shirt.
i like the pitt script, by the way, but it was a different era. this is the new team. we can't return to the glory days. we can only celebrate them. you can't look the future if you cling to the past...

max greenwald said...

i was kidding about the bobblehead, merely being sarcastic, but you can't adequately express that online.

Michael said...

true. just flexing my internet tough guy muscle. but unless you give out something students REALLY want, which is hard to do in a public atmosphere, the increase won't be near what you expect at all.