Arizona men’s basketball has four banners hanging in McKale Center that tell the tale of a program’s rise to prominence. Arizona women’s basketball made its national announcement at last year’s Final Four. Now is the time to raise the banner. The ceremony is one of the 14 promotional events that will be held at each of the Wildcats’ home games. That, along with several technological changes to the game day experience, will welcome fans back for their first regular season games since February 2020.
The fan base keeps growing
There should be a lot of fans when that time comes if the exhibition games are any indication. Arizona played two games in their exhibition season, and the fans didn’t care that the games didn’t count.
The first was against Division II Eastern New Mexico. In the second, the Wildcats hosted NAIA Arizona Christian. The level of competition didn’t dampen the excitement. When the Greyhounds came to Tucson, the stands were full of 5,948 fans. Just over a week later, the Wildcats had an even bigger turnout with 6,124 in McKale Center to watch their team dominate the Firestorm.
Head coach Adia Barnes has said she believes the program could get 10,000 fans per night once the regular season starts. They are on their way. As of Nov. 2, the program had already sold “well over 5,000” season tickets according to athletic director Dave Heeke. The majority were first-time buyers with 2,800 new season tickets sold.
The banner ceremony
Arizona only has 14 home games this season. Perhaps that’s why the fans turned out in droves to watch a game against competition that the Wildcats were bound to beat soundly. They won’t have to wait long to celebrate last year’s accomplishments, either. Why wait to celebrate the greatest achievement in program history?
The Wildcats will hang the 2020-21 Final Four banner on Monday, Nov. 15 at 6:30 p.m. MST. That game features a matchup between Arizona and Texas Southern.
The banner ceremony will be one of 14 promotional event held by Arizona women’s basketball. Those events tip off on opening night with a double-header of Tommy Lloyd’s Arizona men’s team and Adia Barnes’ women’s team. The two-is-better than one event starts with the women’s team playing CSUN at 5 p.m. MST followed by the men playing NAU at 8:30 p.m. MST on Tuesday, Nov. 9.
That will be followed by the banner ceremony on Nov. 15 then the remaining 12 events:
- Friday, Nov. 19 vs Marist: Native American Heritage Month
- Thursday, Dec. 9 vs North Dakota State: Faculty/Staff Night
- Sunday, Dec. 12 vs New Mexico: Holiday
- Friday, Jan. 7 vs Washington State: JDRF (in honor of juvenile diabetes research)
- Sunday, Jan. 9 vs Washington: Disney Night/Girl Scout Cookie Kickoff
- Friday, Jan. 21 vs Utah: Mom’s Night Out
- Sunday, Jan. 23 vs Colorado: Heroes Night (in honor of first responders and military)
- Friday, Feb. 4 vs Oregon: Mountains to Medals International Night (in honor of Arizona Olympians)
- Sunday, Feb. 6 vs Oregon State: Black History Month
- Sunday, Feb. 13 vs ASU: Red Out
- Friday, Feb. 24 vs UCLA: Breast Cancer Awareness and Fan Appreciation Night
- Sunday, Feb. 26 vs USC: Senior Game
Fans will find a number of changes to the gameday experience this year. Those changes are primarily focused on technological upgrades in ticketing and food service. Fans have already had to deal with some of those changes, like the switch to mobile ticketing, for other events.
The vast majority of fans will no longer receive paper tickets as of this year. Instead, tickets that can be accessed via a mobile device are the go-to method of entry to Arizona sports venues now.
Heeke said that the department has issued paper tickets to a very small number of fans who do not have mobile devices, but the number is minuscule. He also offered reassurance to fans who may be apprehensive about the change.
“I think we’re providing an abundance of additional staff to provide guidance and help for those who come in, and they have some concerns about how to download their tickets, or what to do,” Heeke said. “So we’ve got people on staff in neon, yellow shirts, very identifiable, that can help someone navigate through that. All of us have a little bit of technology concern sometimes or hesitancy, but once you go through it once or twice, it’s really very simple and very straightforward.”
Other tech changes have been introduced to speed up food service. The university is offering mobile purchasing of food and drinks from the concession stands. There are also two cashless self-service areas on the northwest and southeast corners of the McKale Center concourse. Those stations allow fans to pick up their purchases and pay using an automatic scanner similar to the ones being introduced in convenience stores.
Cashless transactions, such as self-service concessions, require the use of a card. However, fans who arrive with only cash have other options. Reverse ATMs allow fans to insert money into a machine which provides the customers with a card to use. There are no additional card or service fees. Fans need only deposit the amount they wish to spend that evening.
Aramark, the concession vendor, has made some additional changes at McKale Center. Alcohol will now be sold at all concession stands rather than just specially designated areas. That includes the self-service concessions, which will be staffed to verify fans are of legal age.
Aramark has also introduced a number of items to the traditional menu. There are plenty of choices if fans are willing to pay the ever-increasing cost of game day amenities.