The Independence Bowl Is In Trouble. Here’s How To Fix It.
The only way you could have enjoyed the Independence Bowl last week, without noticing a massive issue, was if you were listening to the game on 1130AM The Tiger in Shreveport. If you were at the game, or watched the game, you could see the glaring issue.
There wasn't anyone there...
The announced attendance was roughly 29,000 but anyone who has working eyes can see that there were FAR less than that in the stadium. Even if you take the 28,995 announced number as gospel, it's still the lowest attendance at the I-Bowl since 1988, and one of the 5 lowest attendances ever for the Indy Bowl.
You can blame the fact that you had two 6-6 teams facing off, you can blame it on the fact the game was an afternoon tilt on a Monday, or you can blame the threat of rain that we had this year. But, this isn't an isolated incident, the attendance has trended down for the last three years, and hasn't topped 40,000 since a Louisiana-based team (UL-Monroe) played in the game back in 2012. In fact, over the last 10 years, the only times the I-Bowl topped the 40k mark was when the game involved Alabama, Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Missouri, or ULM.
You can argue over bowl payouts or conference tie-ins, but none of that is going to change the local opinion of the game. The only way you're going to fill up the stadium is to get the local community into the event.
Which is why it's time to drop the name, Independence Bowl.
You heard me, the Independence Bowl no longer MEANS anything. Back in 1976, during the USA's Bicentennial, INDEPENDENCE Bowl meant something...fast-forward to 2016, and it doesn't mean anything anymore. You're being out-patriotic'd by the Armed Forces Bowl (just down the road near Dallas) and to some extent the Liberty Bowl. So what does Independence Bowl SAY to the people of Shreveport?
Here's my pitch...embrace the most flashy thing about our area, a thing you can ONLY get in a few places, including Shreveport...it's time to create The Mardi Gras Bowl.
Think about it, NO ONE ELSE CAN OFFER THIS. Shreveport has one of the largest Mardi Gras celebrations in the country, it's something we actually do REALLY WELL. So if you're going to get a chance to showcase your community on a national level, why not put forward what you're best at?
The Mardi Gras planning season is already in full-force by the time the game rolls around, you can tie-in the local Krewes, utilize their party throwing expertise to help form events around the game. You can change the appearance of the celebration and game to reflect Mardi Gras celebrations
Get floats to use for a parade that could allow the players to ride the floats, and give them team-oriented throws to involved the public. Have some King Cake tasting contests as part of game-day celebrations. Have the Krewe Royalty on-hand as part of the game, to act as ambassadors for our Mardi Gras community.
This would help create an atmosphere for teams, coaches, players, fans, and the local community to get an experience that can't be duplicated ANYWHERE else. The only place that could successfully mix a college football bowl game and Mardi Gras is Shreveport. You can't do that in Louisville, you can't do that in El Paso, and it can't be done in Orlando.
We're essentially getting millions of dollars worth of national tourism advertising through ESPN, let's use that to let the entire country know that Mardi Gras isn't limited to the French Quarter.
I know there's going to be pushback, because this would involved work, and investment. But you know what, the I-Bowl is close to panic mode, and I'd rather take drastic measures on something like this, than to realize you're too late.