By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Have you ever heard of the Dayton Dragons? Maybe you should have because they sound a lot like the professional version of the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The Dayton Dragons are a Class A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds organization. The team plays at Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio. Here’s the amazing part and the part that makes them similar to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. They are the single season attendance champions for all of Class-A baseball with an attendance level of 597,433. They have broken the attendance record several times but that record has stood since 2010.
But here’s the amazing part. As of the 2017 season they had sold out 1,246 consecutive games which is an all-time record for any sports team in North America. Their stadium holds over 8,000 people. During the 18-year time period they’ve been in Dayton they’ve only won two division titles and no league championships.
In the words of John Calipari, “You people are crazy.” Just like selling out a glorified practice — Big Blue Madness — in 40 minutes. Twenty three thousand tickets in 40 minutes. For a practice. Camping out for two days in the rain to get tickets for a practice. Year after year after year UK fans continue to camp out to get first access to tickets for a practice. And yes the Wildcat Basketball team has won many championships. Eight National Championships and 50 SEC Regular Season Championships.
But what about UK Football. For a team that is in a “basketball state” they sure do a good job of bringing in the fans. In 1999 during the Hal Mumme era home attendance for football games in Commonwealth Stadium averaged 67,756 — in a stadium the held 67,350 — for a team that finished the season at 6-6.
In 2007, when Rich Brooks was the coach, Kentucky fans set the record for single game attendance for the Florida game by squeezing 71,024 people into a stadium that held 67,606. Home attendance was regularly up in the 70,000 fan range during that decade. All of that for a football team that has an average winning percentage below .500 at .496. Where else in the country would a football team consistently sellout games for a team that has averaged a losing record over one-hundred twenty plus years?
Even though attendance has fallen off for football in the last few years and UK Basketball games are no longer guaranteed sellouts, fans still continue to show up in droves not just for football and basketball but sports like baseball ,softball, volleyball and gymnastics. Even in blizzards and rain storms Wildcat fans always come through. They find a way to get to the games.
And they find a way to get to the practices and clinics too. Like in 2016 when coach Calipari said this about the Women’s Basketball Clinic, “I want to thank you for a record crowd of 1,053 attendees at this year’s Women’s Clinic. You people are crazy. Biggest women’s clinic in the world.” And it probably is.
Or how about the time Kentucky fans on a Friday afternoon before the start of the 2015 Final Four packed the Lucas Oil Stadium Arena in Indianapolis to watch an open practice. And a lot of those fans didn’t have tickets for the game. They just wanted to show up and support the team.
The same has happened in the last few years with Wildcat Baseball, Softball and Volleyball.
Last weekend Kentucky Football hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks in a sold out Kroger Field. Remember that Kentucky is a basketball state … and a football state… and a baseball state… and a volleyball state.
You get the picture. If a sport is played and Wildcats are involved the fans will show up. It’s always been that way and I do not see that changing in the future. Now somehow one of these UK teams needs to figure out how to beat that Dragons record of 1,246 consecutive sell outs.