Crunchin' the numbers on varsity game attendance

As our T-Birds teams lit up Canada West this year, the UBC community faithfully cheered them along from the sidelines. To commemorate this season's end, we've decided to crunch the numbers on game attendance since the 2012/13 season to highlight some exciting trends.

The first graph is the average game attendance per season per sport.

What does this show? Well, football is by far the most popular sport to watch at UBC. After the team took home the Vanier Cup in 2015, attendance spiked the next few years before decreasing in 2019/20 after the team could not replicate their 2015 success. However, it seems like 'Birds fans came back in 2022/23 as the average attendance bounced back to nearly 3,500 spectators per game. Perhaps a Vanier Cup run this upcoming fall could push fan turnout even higher than 2016/17 levels.

The graph also illustrates the dip in attendance during the 2021/22 season, where pandemic restrictions took a toll on basketball, football, and hockey. Surprisingly, volleyball and soccer attendance was up during that season. It's likely that this increased interest in soccer is in part thanks to the Jump Start game, where first-year students are taken to watch a women's soccer game as part of their orientation week. For volleyball, the national title in 2019 could have helped spark some interest, or maybe it's the rise in popularity of the show Haikyu!!.

In the graph on the next slide, we compared the total attendance of men's and women's games per sport over the past 10 years.

Men's hockey draws significantly more spectators than women's hockey. Earlier start times could affect women's hockey attendance numbers. With the puck drop for the women’s team at this year's Winter Classic at 4 pm, many potential fans could still be in class and or at work. While the attendance gap between the basketball teams is less drastic, the men's games still attracted almost double the number of spectators. In volleyball, the gap shortens even more. Looking at soccer, we can see a flip on the common trend as the women's team has drawn more spectators than their counterpart over the past 10 years.

Yearly events highlighting varsity teams — like Winter Classic, the Courtside Hoops Festival, Pride Night at War Memorial and Homecoming — all draw bigger crowds than the average game.

Pride Night draws in around 2,000 spectators compared to the usual 500. Just under 2,000 people attended this year's Courtside compared to an average of 400. The Jump Start game is attended by 3,500, a considerable boost from the average of 450. Hockey's Winter Classic is also a hit, with over 4,500 spectators showing up compared to the usual of just over 500. And leading the way is Homecoming. The start of the year football game is a classic UBC, and the attendance numbers showcase it accordingly, as almost 8,000 tickets were sold this year.

Our final graph addressed the elephant in the room, the COVID-19 pandemic. As varsity teams took a break for the 2020/21 season, we were curious to see if game attendance was impacted the next few seasons.

We noted an interesting trend here — all sports except basketball experienced a post-pandemic attendance boom.

Basketball had a severe dip in 2021/22, as provincially mandated public health orders forced the cancellation of Courtside. That could explain the heavy fall but subsequent bounce back the following year. Volleyball attendance has increased substantially since the pandemic hinting that Pride Night, which has been occurring since 2018, has cemented itself as an important sporting event in the community. Hockey has been relatively stable, with a nice rise in attendance this season due to the success of the Winter Classic. Finally, soccer attendance numbers have benefited from including a game within the Jump Start program.

With files from Miriam Celebiler.