The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Tuesday, May 21, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

'A packed house': UNC women's basketball sees surge in attendance at home games

20230223_Evans_WBBvsVT-4.jpg

UNC women's basketball fans cheer on the team during the basketball game against Virginia Tech on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023 at Carmichael Arena. UNC lost 59-61.

In Jan. 2023, over 6,300 fans watched as the UNC women’s basketball team defeated N.C. State, 56-47, at the first Carmichael Arena sellout in eight years.

At the end of last season, the Tar Heels stood sixth in the ACC and reached a top five ranking in average attendance per game.

Carmichael Arena was consistently a packed house, occasionally only offering standing room and even turning students away. Students queued in lines spanning from Carmichael to Student Stores, waiting for the student entrance to open.

The fans' continued engagement has created an undeniable home court advantage for the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels went 13-2 at home in 2023, and over 1,300 season ticket passes have already been purchased so far for the 2024 season — significantly surpassing the 844 sold last year. 

“It’s now become kind of a thing to do among the student body, while women’s basketball definitely wasn’t that in the past,” Matt Krause, the North Carolina women’s basketball play-by-play broadcaster, said.

UNC’s nail-biting 66-65 victory over Louisville at home in 2022 caught fans' attention. Following the Tar Heels' notable wins against Notre Dame, N.C. State, and Duke the following season, there seemed to be an increased momentum and draw for the women’s basketball team. 

This movement toward the sport is beyond meaningful to the athletes. 

“Being able to sell out games that aren't even like rival games or big games just says that, you know, we've done our part in bringing people in and making people feel welcome and having them enjoy the games,” senior forward Anya Poole said.

Carmichael Arena limits capacity to 6,800 fans, creating inherent demand among the student body and general public as tickets are not readily available. The arena gets loud easily, and the game day experience feels more intimate for both the athletes and the fans.

“Home court advantage is a real thing, especially when you have a packed house,” senior forward Alyssa Ustby said. “And so we're really grateful for the Carolina Fever that continuously show up and support us and again, like I said, the community at Chapel Hill does a phenomenal job of being consistent throughout the season.”

The Tar Heels' improved winning streak has attracted a loyal and consistent fan base that, paired with the iconic local rivalries with Duke and N.C. State, has transformed North Carolina into a women’s basketball state.

The rise of women’s basketball at UNC has caught the attention of incoming recruits.

“Coming from Alabama, [which is] really a football state, I think coming into a different atmosphere with all of the sports basketball-wise, I think it was really good for me,” first-year guard Reniya Kelly said.

Currently ranked preseason No. 16 in the AP poll, the Tar Heels enter this season with goals to continue elevating their game. 

This November, Carmichael will host the 2023 ACC/SEC Women’s Basketball Challenge between UNC and South Carolina, marking the first time the Gamecocks have visited Chapel Hill in 36 years. The Tar Heels expect a sellout.

“The work [of selling tickets] is kind of done by the community,” general manager Liz Roberts said. “It’s like word-of-mouth marketing. South Carolina’s coming to town. The town itself is excited about that, so it makes my job easy.”

Rather than conceding to the added pressure, head coach Courtney Banghart and the players perceive this new attention as a huge opportunity for growth in the sport. 

“When you are the head coach of the University of North Carolina and you want to win a national championship and you are driven to grow our game, this is my responsibility,” Banghart said. “Luckily I’ve got a bunch of fighters who are up for the task.”

@laureneweider

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.