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Kimberly Brenneisen | | February 22, 2017

Utah draws huge crowds of 15,000-plus

  Utah beat rival UCLA last weekend in front of 15,558 fans.

A crowd the size of more than 15,000 people isn’t too standard for a women’s sport team in college, but that’s the norm for the No. 5 Utah gymnastics team.

Commonly referred to as the Red Rocks, the Utah gymnastics team boasts one of the highest attendance rates in all of women’s sports. The Huntsman Center capacity is listed at 15,000, but more often than not the Red Rocks exceed that number, and it’s something unparalleled. At its most recent home meet on Feb. 18 when Utah took on the UCLA Bruins, 15,558 fans flooded the arena, and the Red Rocks are averaging 15,035 people per meet this season.

This program bests the likes of other notable women’s collegiate programs, whether it be gymnastics rivals or even women’s basketball. This year, the Alabama women’s gymnastics team hosts an average of 13,462, the South Carolina women’s basketball team hosts an average 12,404 and the UConn women’s basketball team averages 8,996.

In the past seven years, the Utah gymnastics team has had an average of 14,000 fans, and for 25 straight seasons the team has had an average of 12,000 fans per meet. In 2016, the team was host to an average of 14,928 fans per meet, whereas the Utah men’s basketball team, who the Red Rocks share the Huntsman Center with, hosted an average of 12,997 fans per game.

That home crowd pushes the gymnasts to stick their landings and hit their marks. 2016 Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner came to the program halfway through the fall semester after delaying enrollment one year to train for the Olympics. Skinner says the home crowd in the Huntsman is unique in the way that the fans are there to watch the entire team succeed rather than one individual gymnast.

“In the Huntsman they support all of you and cheer for all of you,” Skinner said. “In Elite it was more based on the top people, so it’s different and it’s more fun to have the crowd there cheering you on, there for you. [It] makes you want to go out there and get pumped, work hard, and show them what we worked so hard for. It’s a blast.”

Co-head coach Megan Marsden has been with the program for over 20 years, both as a coach and as a gymnast. She says road meets are just as important as home ones, if not more, since the team will be traveling for its postseason. But Marsden loves everything that the Huntsman Center offers.

Marsden says alumni often tell her how much they miss the atmosphere, so she always encourages her team to remember to soak up every minute possible, because the years can go by fast.

“Our team usually feels comfortable in the confines of the Huntsman Center with their 15,000 screaming fans,” Marsden said. “I know that they love to put on a show for those people. My alumni always talk about those moments in the Huntsman Center when they finish a routine and the place explodes for them, so I get excited for my girls to keep having those moments.”

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