By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – While Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze tries to get a handle on winning football games, the Rebels’ fans can get a handle on the steps inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this fall.
The installation of hand rails throughout the interior of the stadium bowl and in stairways is one of the changes listed in a 26-page report, the school’s response to its survey of season-ticket holders released in late June.
“It’s a really big undertaking, but we’re doing that before the 2012 season,” said Michael Thompson, associate athletics director for communications and marketing.
A total of 15,637 surveys were mailed on Nov. 22 with a Dec. 15 deadline for response.
The timing was later in 2011 than in 2010 when the survey went out during the season with the idea that the university would be able to make quick responses in season to some areas of concern.
The survey from the 2010 season resulted in a “100-100” initiative in which Thompson and his staff set out to make 100 tweaks – some bigger than others – to the game day experience in the 100 days leading to the first kickoff.
The 2011 survey received 3,484 responses, a 22.3 percent rate.
“It was giant. As far as marketing research and survey standards go it was off-the-charts high,” Thompson said. “Our survey would have been statistically valid if we’d have gotten back 700 surveys. To get back five times that is really awesome.”
Unique surveys were sent to four groups: suite ticket holders, club ticket holders, non-students in the stadium bowl and students.
The surveys were categorized by “first impressions,” which included the physical appearance inside and outside the stadium, professionalism of security personnel, performance and friendliness of game-day workers, etc., then concessions, restroom, band, video board and sound and mobile.
Ten percent of respondents rated the overall video board content as a “significant improvement” from 2010.
Video highlights of the program’s history and the updates on former Ole Miss players in the NFL got good reviews, and music selection and volume were also popular topics among those who added comments to their completed surveys.
Prior to the 2011 season, the decision was made to disallow 30-second commercials, and employees were added to the video board production crew.
Fans spoke favorably of the ability to pay by credit or debit card, a 2011 addition to the permanent concession stands.
A notable change this season will be the sale of Chick-Fil-A sandwiches at three locations inside the stadium.
As the hand rails suggest, the physical isn’t being ignored for the amenities.
Prior to this season’s start, stairs will be sandblasted and repainted, row numbers replaced and more visible.
A similar survey has been conducted for the basketball experience, and results of the first baseball survey will be released in about six weeks.
Thompson was pleased to note football fans’ increased satisfaction in areas the school specifically targeted based on information from the 2010 survey.
“If we’re not improving, then we’re not doing our jobs. There’s no end to this,” he said. “Our fans’ interests will change, technology will change, and it’s important that we have this open line of communication. We can adapt. As the years go on, I think you will see us create this game day experience that our fans will come to love and really connect with.”