The Arizona Wildcats averaged 42,632 fans at their home games in 2017, which was easily their lowest amount in over a decade, as well as one of the worst marks in the Pac-12.
There were many reasons for that, including late kickoff times, a mediocre team, and the unimpressive fan experience at Arizona Stadium.
Those first two problems are difficult to fix and not entirely in the athletic department’s control, but that third one is.
With TV competing with ticket sales, schools have to create a game-day atmosphere that trumps the experience one can get from watching games at home or a local restaurant.
Clearly, such an atmosphere was lacking at the UA last season, so here are some alterations it is making this fall.
Less DJ, more band
One of the biggest gripes among fans was that the music at Arizona Stadium was too loud, played too often, and the song choices were bad.
Those complaints were heard, as were the suggestions that the UA band should be more prominent. This is college football, after all.
“If you attended the final home game of the 2017 football season, you might have noticed some adjustments we made with the volume level and band to DJ music ratio,” athletic director Dave Heeke wrote in a recent Wildcat Wednesday newsletter.
“This was a change based on the feedback we had received earlier in the season. Our postseason surveys echoed the same sentiment. Expect to hear more of the Pride of Arizona next season. The music played by the DJ serves a purpose and won’t completely go away, but fans should notice the band receiving more air time. When the DJ plays, we will continue to do our best to adjust the volume to reach a level that satisfies the majority of the stadium.”
More stats and out-of-town scores
The internet connection at Arizona Stadium is notoriously bad, so if you have gone to a game recently, you know how difficult it is to keep up with the rest of the college football scene.
It’s also a challenge just to keep track of stats from Arizona’s game, since they were only displayed intermittently at the stadium.
Arizona is trying to remedy that by posting more stats and out-of-town scores on the videoboard.
“There is nothing like being in the stadium to enjoy the full excitement and energy of a game,” Heeke wrote. “In addition, we want the fan experience to challenge what you get with TV and these changes will help us take steps to reaching that goal.”
The internet problem has not been mentioned, and that is probably something Arizona should work on, if it’s not already.
Watching sports while being plugged into social media is important for younger sports fans, including those in the ZonaZoo, which struggled to fill up last year.
New PA Announcer
Arizona is replacing public address announcer Jimmy Zasa with Jeff Dean. Dean does PA for men’s basketball games in McKale Center.
It remains to be seen if the third-down siren will still be a thing. (Hopefully not.)
The classic battle athletic departments have is getting fans to pay to go to games instead of watching them on TV.
So here’s a crazy concept: How about charging fans less to get into the stadium? Arizona is trying that.
Season tickets now start at $70 (lowered from $99) for the upper level and $100 (lowered from $150) for the lower bowl south end zone. Youth season tickets (ages 3-12) are $35 (lowered from $50).
Credit cards will now be accepted at all concessions stands in Arizona Stadium (it seems ridiculous that they weren’t before), and there will be new food vendors, too.
“We’re working with the University’s Student Unions team on a request for proposals (RFP) for the 2018 season,” Heeke wrote last month. “Specifically, we are looking for food vendors from the following food categories: shaved/frozen ice, Italian/pizza, Mexican, BBQ, and sub sandwiches. These categories were determined by the feedback we received from a survey of football season ticket holders.”
We got a sneak peek at some of those options and OMG IS THAT MACARONI AND CHEESE IN AN ICE CREAM CONE!?
This just might work.
Taste testing for new concession stand options at Arizona Stadium for @ArizonaFBall ✅— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) June 7, 2018
Thank you to Chef Omo and his team for helping us upgrade the Arizona game day experience! #BearDown pic.twitter.com/GmNXN3Dxz3
The next step is probably going to be selling alcohol stadium-wide, but we’re not there just yet.