(Varsity Partners are a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
With the 2019-2020 college basketball season underway, fans of the University of Pittsburgh will notice a number of changes to the team’s home arena: the Petersen Events Center (PEC).
These upgrades include LED lighting throughout the entire building, a new state-of-the-art center-hung video board, two end zone replay/stats boards, free public WiFi and a dedicated media WiFi network, a new media suite complete with press row seating and media room, enhanced and expanded premium seating areas, new in-venue dining options at the PEC Food Court, and updated environmental branding throughout the venue
According to Pitt Deputy AD of External Affairs Christian Spears, the most significant change to the fan atmosphere has been the flip of the basketball court. For the past twenty or so seasons, television cameras would face the courtside suites. Now the benches have been flipped and fans watching at home now see Pitt’s student section affectionately known by basketball enthusiasts as the Oakland Zoo.
“We have one of the better students sections in the country and we weren’t putting them on TV,” Spears remarks. “We were putting the people courtside on TV. So we flipped the cameras, flipped the court and moved the benches. I honestly think that the atmosphere in the building because of the Zoo is amazing and on TV we look even better.”
With this season marking the launch of the ACC Network and more national TV exposure for the conference, Spears and the Panthers made these changes in an effort to put their best foot forward.
“If all of our games are going to be televised, we’ve got to make the fan experience unique,” Spears says. “We were able to incorporate all the new marks and logos and the color change. The students and fans have really embraced it. We’re trying to help Coach Jeff Capel win by having a great atmosphere and we’re on our way to doing that.”
The revamped branding elements for Pitt athletics have been a key element of their fan strategy in the past year. While the school had been using colors of navy and gold for the last few decades, they made the switch back to a lighter color of blue and yellow, similar to what the school used in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We just really wanted to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the ACC,” Spears says of the color switch. “There are a few schools in the league that look substantially similar to the dark colors. Georgia Tech and Notre Dame, for example. That brighter blue and brighter yellow are nostalgic, those are the colors we used to wear in the early eighties. Our fans have embraced it! So that’s been a real differentiator in the league for us.”
To continue improving their fan experience for years to come, Pitt has partnered with Varsity Partners. The group will explore insight from fan surveys gathered at basketball games this season in order to provide recommendations to make games at the PEC even better. In particular, Varsity Partners will explore opportunities to elevate the fan experience in certain areas of the stadium.
“They’re going to come in and give us an overview of what the driveway to driveway experience is like at a Pitt basketball game, particularly in the premium spaces. So, we want Varsity Partners to help us ensure that our Season Ticket holders in those spaces are having a first-class experience. We need to know that is what’s happening,” Spears states.
In particular, the Panthers will look to find ways to differentiate the number of premium spaces within the PEC and create a more stratified pricing structure for premium options like the Courtside Club, Suites, and Campus View Club.
“Maybe we can lower price points and still provide a more enhanced experience. Should we make sure that the amenities are different? Simple things like a wider chair and a drink holder, we can certainly do that. But right now we’re looking for justification to make some of these changes and see which ones our fans want the most.”
Fans can catch the Panthers in action at the PEC all season long and get tickets to see these new additions up close by calling the Panthers Ticket Office at 1-800-643-7488 or visiting pittsburghpanthers.com.