The GCI Great Alaska Shootout has been struggling to boost attendance for years, but this year, organizers say they’re trying some new things to bring in new fans.


Much of the outreach effort is focused on bringing in younger fans, and University of Alaska Anchorage athletics director Keith Hackett thinks it’s working, based on the turnout for the first night of the tournament on Tuesday.


“We had a great crowd I think last night for the first two women’s games, so I’m encouraged about what I saw last night,” Hackett said.


He said they’ve used traditional means of advertising the shootout in newspapers and on television, but to target college and high school students and young families, they’re turning more and more to social media.


“Social media is the way I think that we have to reach the demographic that we’re trying to reach,” Hackett explained.


Another way to boost turnout is to make getting to the tournament easier. Sponsor GCI set up a free shuttle from downtown Anchorage to the games and back again.


“It makes it so parking isn’t an issue, transportation is super easy,” said Kate Slyker, the vice president of marketing for GCI.


She said when thinking about how to get people excited about the shootout, they wanted to make sure they had something for everyone.


“Of course there’s amazing D1 basketball, but there is a bounce house for little kids who come, there’s a prime rib carving station and a beer garden, there is the DJ Spencer Lee who’s here, there’s the contest,” Slyker said, referring to the shot contest to win a free truck.


Hackett said they’ve also worked to make the tickets more affordable and handed out some free ones. That’s what brought Wasilla resident Keri Anderson to the Wednesday afternoon game, along with some athletes from her basketball team.


“There’s actually a few ways that the kids could get tickets: through their schools or through the YMCA here in Anchorage,” Anderson said. “My family would have come but I don’t know if I could have gotten all of my players that are here today, so it helps.”


Hackett said the only way to ensure the shootout keeps happening every year is for people to attend. The tournament continues through Saturday.


Editor’s note: GCI is the parent company of KTVA.


KTVA 11’s Bonney Bowman can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.