CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA Starting this season, students will be able to take buses directly from campus to Verizon Center and use smartphones to enter the stadium.
Starting this season, students will be able to take buses directly from campus to Verizon Center and use smartphones to enter the stadium.

The trek from the Hilltop to Chinatown for Georgetown men’s basketball games has been blamed for lackluster student attendance, and three athletic department initiatives this season aim to help fill up seats at Verizon Center.

A direct busing program from campus to the arena, a mobile ticketing service and a minor expansion of student section seating at games will all be instituted this basketball season.

The shuttles — operating on a pilot basis this season, with potentially expanded service in the future — will supplement the regular practice of increased Georgetown University Transportation Service buses running on game days. Because D.C. traffic patterns are expected to make bus travel slower than Metro travel on weeknights, the program will operate primarily for weekend and holiday games.

However, not all students will be eligible to participate in the pilot program. In an apparent effort to incentivizeattendance at non-conference games, the athletic department will offer bus vouchers only to students who attend either two out of the first three games or half of all non-conference games.

“Eligible students will be notified via email and given three to five days prior to game day to pick up their direct bus voucher,” said Pete Kirschner, the athletic department’s senior director of marketing.

Kirschner left the door open for expansions of the program, provided that it’s successful this year.

“It is important to note that this is a pilot program that, if found to be enjoyed by the majority of student season ticket holders, can be expanded in the future,” he said.

Once they arrive at the arena, students will notice a change at the door: For the first time, students will be able to gain admittance using their iPhone, Android or Windows smartphones instead of theMyHoyas season ticket card, which will not be continued this season. Students without smartphones will be able to either print out tickets or download tickets to credit or debit cards — an option that was available last season. Students will still be able to transfer individual game tickets to other students’ accounts, which became available last year.

Executive Director for Ticket Operations and Donor Relations Steve Alleva compared the new smartphone system to those used by airlines for mobile check-in.

“We’ll be creating user-friendly how-to guides,” Alleva said. “You’ll go to your online MyHoyas account through your smartphone, and that will bring up a QR-like code that will be scannable at the Verizon Center.”

The third change instituted this season concerns the student section itself. In an effort to make a “more intimate” atmosphere, the seats allocated to students will include all of sections 105 and 106 — commonly known as the “non-pep band” side — as well as rows CC-KK in section 117 — the “pep band side.”

This represents little change from past years, except that the athletic department will not close off the pep band side during games not anticipated to draw large crowds, as it has done on occasion in the past. Excess students will continue to be placed in sections 424-427, and no student will be denied the opportunity to buy season tickets.

“We’re students. We want the student section to be as intimate, as rowdy, as fun as possible,” Hoya Blue Vice President Rachael Augostini (COL ’14) said. “I think the team will appreciate that as much as the students do.”

The new initiatives this season sprouted from talks over the summer between athletic department officials, Hoya Blue and the Georgetown University Student Association.

The bus conversation in particular arose after GUSA Vice President and former Hoya Blue board member Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) realized how popular the idea was during the 2012 GUSAexecutive campaign. Rather than attempting to start a new system through GUSA, he talked to his contacts in Hoya Blue and the athletic department to see how older, failed attempts at direct busingcould be revamped in a successful way.

“It was the first time that GUSA had somebody with previous ties to the athletic department,” Ramadan said. “And the athletic department had an infrastructure in place. So rather than reinventing the wheel, why not take advantage of what we already have, and make more students aware of it?”

The athletic department has a clear impetus for making games more appealing to students this season in particular: This year’s schedule, partially due to the conference move, lacks many of the big-draw games from years past.

With the marketability of games against Butler, Creighton and Xavier an unknown quantity — and juggernauts like Louisville and Syracuse off the schedule — Hoya Blue and the athletic department are banking on a simplified approach bringing in more fans. Ramadan, for one, thinks it’s a winning bet.

“We’re in kind of uncharted territory, but I’m personally very excited,” Ramadan said. “I think the busing is a home run — it’s just a matter of making sure student know about it.”

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