Brad Koenig got hooked on Minnesota State athletics while pursuing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in the last 1970s.
He remembers Otto Arena being filled with fans, both students and community members, for basketball games.
“My whole family went to MSU, and it was fun going to games,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from (Minnesota State athletics).”
Minnesota State athletic officials announced the formation Maverick Fan Advisory Board this week, appointing 18 community members and fans as its board members. The mission of the board is to improve engagement and interaction with Minnesota State’s fans and will meet quarterly, beginning in August, with athletic staff.
Five board members will serve four-year terms and the rest will be two-year members. The four-year members are Bailey Blethen, Eric Jones, Obie Kipper Jr., David Schooff and Randy Zellmer.
The two-year members are Koenig, Heather Anderson, Lindsey Botker, Melissa Bradley, Chuck Brandel, Don Brose, Jim Clark, Doug Dittbenner, Julie Frederick, Don Kreye, Josh Sherburne, Jennifer Spaude and Stacey Straka.
“We were looking for a broad-based group where we could collect feedback and experiences and get a good direction for attendance and interest in our events,” Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said. “It’s not enough to just give fans the sports experience. They need to be entertained, and we want to provide that.”
Koenig is now a season ticket holder for football, women’s soccer and basketball, and he said he’s seen every Mavericks team compete at some point. He’s even made several road trips to watch the Mavericks.
He’s using his time on the fan advisory board to try to figure out why more students and community members don’t take advantage of Minnesota State athletics.
“Kevin (Buisman) has done a great job of hiring good coaches who have produced a lot of winning records and great accomplishments,” Koenig said. “When I was in school, students would fill Otto Arena.
“I think it’s a societal thing. I realize there’s a lot of other things for students to do, but as big as Mankato is, those places should be full.”
Botker moved to Mankato nearly 10 years ago. She and her husband Jesse, a surgeon who works with Minnesota State athletes though the Orthopaedic & Fracture Clinic, were both college athletes so they were drawn to Minnesota State athletics.
“(Minnesota State) had such a reputation of great success and great facilities so we were intrigued,” Botker said. “I’m very excited to listen to other people suggest ideas and try to figure out how we can get the stands full.”
Botker said she feels the cost of attending Minnesota State events is reasonable, and the facilities provide a good game-day experience with positive fan interaction.
“All of the sports are putting out a good product,” she said. “We want to support the athletes and coaches.”
The group’s first meeting will come in early August, at which time Buisman said he’s not yet likely to know what the game-day experience will look like with the COVID-19 pandemic. There could be limits to how many fans can attend events, especially indoors.
“Getting as much feedback as we can is important,” Buisman said. “We want to hear from the (committee members), as well as what they hear when they’re at events or out in the community.
“We want to them to know that their ideas are important and we’ll try to implement them.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.