This writer’s June 28 and July 19 Georgia State football ticket sales articles made it clear that season ticket sales are picking up at a moderate pace. Skeptics might point to better ticket sales progress at some recent peer NCAA FCS schools such as Old Dominion, South Alabama and Lamar.
As GSU sports blogger Ben Moore said in yesterday’s article, various area media outlets and competing fan bases have taken pot shots at Georgia State football at every step of the process. Why? One reason is our history.
Georgia State has not had a history of sold-out sports venues and intense athletics interest, but there have been good reasons for this. For many decades Georgia State was exclusively a commuter school. Commuting students generally have a more difficult time immersing themselves in campus events.
Now, the University Commons and University Lofts house over 2,400 students and are within walking distance of the downtown Atlanta GSU campus. With over 30,000 students at Georgia State, there is room for more dorms and indeed, more will be coming.
Venues have been another issue. Simply put, they’re quirky. The men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball teams play on the third floor of the walk-up Sports Arena at the corner of Decatur St. and Piedmont Ave.
While students in the dorms can make these events, other Panther fans, especially driving in from the northern suburbs, must contend with inbound interstate traffic snarls on weeknights.
Baseball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and softball play at the outdoor Panthersville complex in southeast DeKalb County, about 10 miles from the GSU campus. The distance from campus dampens student interest while northern suburban fans have a longer ride to this location.
In fairness, the Sports Arena and Panthersville were conceived many years ago when Atlanta was a smaller and different metro area. Also, the Georgia State administration lately has spent much money, or gotten donations, to make these venues more attractive. And, there are long-range plans to replace these venues.
The GSU administration could have saved money and built the football practice facility and a modest playing venue at Panthersville. Wisely, they chose to keep both close to the downtown campus.
Admittedly, the above venues have little relation to Georgia State football. The Georgia Dome is a first-class facility that has served the Atlanta Falcons well, notwithstanding the Falcons clamor for an outrageously expensive new outdoor stadium. Panther football fans will be able to avoid the hot September sun, rain and cold November weather.
Georgia State students have been noticeably supportive of the football process and the 3,192 turnout for the Spring Scrimmage game in April was a good omen. Lastly, college and high school football are the premier sporting events of the south. This upstate New Yorker was stunned at the vast high school football venues of Georgia and the generation to generation homage paid to respective collegiate football programs.
Georgia State football can succeed and draw because of the strong coaching staff, prudent decision-making so far by the administration and just because it is college football here in the heart of the south.
This writer will be on vacation the first week of August and will not be able to write articles that week.