During UConn’s win over Tulane on Saturday, Geno Auriemma took time to look around Gampel Pavilion. What he noticed made him very happy. The building was sold out for the noon start, 10,167 fans jammed into every corner of the campus facility.
Not only was it UConn’s first campus sellout of the season, the crowd was significantly higher than the Huskies’ three previous Gampel games, each of which had started at 7 p.m. Of those three, only the home opener against California on Nov. 17 was played on a weekend (Friday) night. And that game attracted 8,103.
But there was more: Auriemma said he parked on Saturday morning at Gampel’s South Garage on Jim Calhoun Way and paid $12 for the privilege. This did not make him as happy and in his press conference after the game he said so.
“It's a proven fact that if we play games at an accessible time, our fans will come out,” Auriemma said. “[Saturday was] one of the few days where I got here and I parked in the garage, and I'm pissed off that it cost $12 to park in the garage.
“Whoever is charging 12 bucks for these people to park in the garage should be ashamed of themselves. It's disgraceful. So for [fans] to come out here — and to not only come to the game pretty much knowing we're going to win, then staying until the end of the game — I said, 'This makes no sense.' But our fans are unique from fans around the country.”
Pat McKenna, an athletic department spokesman, said the university contracts with LAZ parking to manage the garages but the school is responsible for setting the fees.
But UConn basketball fans do not need to park in the $12 lot if they don’t want to. On basketball game days and nights, fans have three campus parking options. But as you might expect, the price increases based on easier access to Gampel Pavilion.
The South garage, the one Auriemma chose, is directly across the street from Gampel and does cost $12, not only to park in the garage but also the lot that is adjacent to the garage.
But if Auriemma had chosen the North Garage on Eagleville Road, a few blocks away from Gampel, the fee is $9 for both the garage and the adjacent lot.
UConn transportation also runs a shuttle between F-Lot on the north side of campus — free after 5 p.m., during the week and free on weekends — and the Werth Center.
UConn also offers a free shuttle from Storrs Center to campus for basketball games. The game day shuttle starts running 90 minutes before each game and runs continuously until approximately 90 minutes after each game ends. Fans can catch the shuttle every 20 minutes outside the Nash-Zimmer transportation center (23 Royce Circle, Storrs) and be dropped off at the Alumni bus stop on Hillside Road. Parking is available in the Storrs Center Garage; free for the first two hours and $1 per hour thereafter with a daily maximum charge of $8.
“We are always looking for ways to enhance the fan experience,” Dave Benedict, UConn’s director of athletics, said in a statement. “I’m thankful the fans can take advantage of this option to help alleviate traffic congestion around Gampel.”
However, the subject of what days and at what times games are played is much more complicated — and, in some ways, out of UConn’s control.
The annual schedule is the result of a complex matrix encompassing the needs and availability of women’s basketball national television right holders (such as ESPN and CBS Sports Network), the American Athletic Conference, the XL Center and Gampel and whatever other events may be scheduled that day involving UConn football and men’s basketball.
This season, the women’s basketball program has actually benefited from a number of weekend afternoon games. The Nov. 19 (Sunday) game against Maryland at Gampel began at 1:30. UConn’s national showdown vs. Notre Dame was 4 p.m., on a Sunday at the XL Center. The New Year’s Eve (Sunday) matchup with Memphis at XL Center was a 1:30 start.
And among its five remaining home games, three will be afternoon weekend games at the XL Center.