Though tucked in the corner of campus and obstructed by the Thompson Athletic Center for the past two years, McDonough Gymnasium makes up for what it lacks in location with its atmosphere.
Most Friday nights and Sunday afternoons during the winter, McDonough comes alive with the energy of the women’s basketball team and its growing fan base.
Fan turnout has risen over the past few seasons as the team has improved its record and gained recognition for its impressive turnaround. After sinking to a 4-27 record (2-16 Big East) during the 2014-15 season, Georgetown clawed back to finish 16-14 last year, posting an 8-4 record at home. The team hosted several home games last season with attendance numbers climbing over 600, including its home opener against Virginia Tech, which drew 781 fans.
Senior forward Faith Woodard said that playing in a smaller on-campus venue makes for an exciting game-day environment.
“We can hear them, and it just excites us to want to do as best as we can. And it’s fun,” Woodard said of the team’s fans and the energy they bring.
Head Coach Natasha Adair has worked to form relationships with student groups such as Hoya Blue, which has helped build the team’s presence on campus.
“To meet with Hoya Blue Tuesday nights, and talk to them about our program and say, ‘We need you guys, we appreciate you guys’ — I want them to know that we are their team, too, and that we appreciate them,” Adair said.
Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing Chris Grosse has brought fans to McDonough. Grosse’s “Hail to the Kale” promotion in February 2015, which gained attention from The Washington Post’s D.C. Sports Bog, ESPN and several other national media outlets, was the first of several unique marketing strategies aimed at drawing bigger numbers to the team’s games.
“Chris thinks clearly with the left side of his brain or something, because I would have never thought of ‘Hail to Kale,’” Adair said about Grosse’s marketing campaigns. “But that just connects us with campus. That was a global initiative, so many people picked up on the ‘Hail to Kale.’ That lets you know that it’s just a concerted effort from everyone, it’s not just women’s basketball. It’s athletics, it’s the community, it’s the university.”
Grosse followed up “Hail to the Kale” with “BEETS by Georgetown” at another women’s game last winter, which was met with more intrigue.
“I think they’re good. It’s just a good way for people to get to know us,” Woodard said. “We love it.”
McDonough is the smallest venue of any other women’s team in the Big East, housing a capacity of 2,500 fans, at least 100 seats smaller than any other conference venue. But Adair wants to make that work to Georgetown’s advantage.
“They are our sixth woman,” Adair said of Georgetown’s fans. “McDonough needs to be the hardest place to play in the Big East. We can’t do it alone. The atmosphere that we have at the beginning of the year for Midnight Madness, that’s the atmosphere that we want to have come game night. ”
This season, Georgetown will host 12 regular season games at McDonough, including a four-game home stretch in December. The team’s home opener will be against crosstown rival George Washington on Nov. 11.