Kent State Men’s Basketball to Host Sensory-Friendly Gameday Experience, Promoting Awareness

With flashing scoreboards and cheering crowds, a college basketball game would seem an unlikely event for someone with sensory issues to attend. 

No longer.

Kent State University is working with area autism-focused organizations as well as KultureCity®, a nonprofit dedicated to providing accessibility and inclusion for those with special needs, to create a sensory-friendly gameday experience that can be enjoyed by all.

Fans attending Kent State’s Dec. 21 men's basketball game versus Hampton University will feel an expression of the university’s ongoing commitment to its core values of kindness, mutual respect and inclusion.

A portion of the proceeds of ticket sales will benefit local nonprofit organizations. 

Creating a Welcoming Environment

The Cleveland office of Birmingham, Alabama-based nonprofit KultureCity will work with Kent State to develop a gameday experience that is sensory friendly for persons who may be sensitive to certain gameday elements, like flashing lights and loud noises. In 2017, KultureCity worked with the owners of Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland to make it a sensory-inclusive venue. Since then, KultureCity has worked in partnership with a number of other NBA teams, NHL arenas, and football and baseball stadiums.

In speaking about creating a sensory-friendly experience, Jordon Gliem, a speech language pathologist and sensory trainer with KultureCity, said, “You want to modify the event, but you don’t want to change the experience.”

KultureCity representatives will train Kent State’s gameday staffers ushers, security officers, ticket takers, concessions workers and others  to recognize the signs of someone who may be feeling uncomfortable or anxious and to know how to assist them.

The organization will also provide free access to “sensory bags” at the game. These bags contain sensory essentials including noise-canceling headphones, fidget activity toys and communication cards for use by nonverbal individuals.

A sensory-friendly viewing area in the loge section of the Memorial Athletic and Convocation (MAC) Center will be made available during the Dec. 21 game to accommodate people with more intense sensory issues.

Discover Kent State's Sensory-Friendly Game-Day Experience (PDF)

REQUEST SEATING

To request seating in the Sensory-Friendly Viewing area, complete the online form. 

Request Sensory-Friendly Seating Purchase tickets for the Dec. 21 sensory-friendly game

Ongoing Efforts for Awareness and Education

“We are excited to host this sensory-friendly game experience,” said Todd Snider, assistant vice president for marketing strategy at Kent State. “We are also proud that going forward, the MAC Center will now carry the designation of a sensory-inclusive venue, with staff training in place and accommodations at events for guests with special needs.”

Kent State center Kalin Bennett (right) shots over a defender from Hiram in the 2019-20 season opener.
Earlier this year, Kent State men’s basketball hosted another, unplanned landmark event for autism awareness and education. On Nov. 6, freshman center Kalin Bennett scored his first basket as a Golden Flash. Bennett is believed to be the first true freshman diagnosed with autism to sign a national letter of intent in Division I men’s basketball. 

After the game, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff said, “It’s a good moment. I feel really happy and proud for him, and I’m glad to be part of it, because I know it means so much to so many people.”

Ticket Proceeds

A portion of the proceeds of ticket sales from the sensory-friendly game will benefit local nonprofit organizations, including Autism Society of Greater Akron, ASPIES of Greater Akron and Autism Society of Greater Cleveland.

These organizations will receive tickets to sell at reduced prices. When buying tickets, purchasers will enter a unique code that will determine which specific organization will receive a donation of half the price of the ticket.

Kent State student organizations Autism Connections Kent, DREAM (Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring) and Alpha Xi Delta will also be selling tickets at reduced prices, with half of the proceeds going back to these organizations and Alpha Xi Delta’s chosen philanthropy, Autism Speaks, when purchased using a specific code.

Future Event

Later this season, the MAC Center will host another men’s basketball event promoting autism awareness and education. The Golden Flashes will wear special autism awareness-themed uniforms during their Feb. 15 game against Ohio University. The uniforms will be designed in collaboration with Under Armour®, Kent State Athletics, students from Kent State’s Fashion School and Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Learn more about Kent State Athletics

# # #

Media Contacts:
Matt Papatheodorou, mpapathe@kent.edu, 330-672-1731
Eric Mansfield, emansfie@kent.edu, 330-672-2797

POSTED: Monday, December 9, 2019 - 12:38pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 - 10:57am
WRITTEN BY:
Phil Soencksen