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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Plan should boost hoops attendance

    With a new Zona Zoo plan, more students may pack McKale Center next year.
    With a new Zona Zoo plan, more students may pack McKale Center next year.

    In what has become an annual occurrence of tinkering with Zona Zoo policy at the end of the school year, student and university officials finally might be onto something.

    After a year in which they made strides from a basketball lottery system in which season tickets were doled out by the luck of a draw, the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and Arizona Athletics targeted the lack of student attendance at basketball games as their main focus.

    If the proposed plan in which basketball tickets will be included in the cost for a sports pass comes to fruition, the basketball attendance problem may be solved.

    This plan is all about basketball, said Scott MacKenzie, UA associate athletic director of external operations. With the excitement surrounding the football team having a legitimate chance at its first bowl bid since 1998, if it’s approved he expects this plan to improve basketball attendance while maintaining the attendance for football that sold out or neared capacity all last year.

    “”We’re hoping it impacts (basketball attendance) a lot,”” MacKenzie said. “”We want to increase it substantially. … We’re focusing on the basketball aspect and how to make it so we fill all the seats for as many games as possible.””

    Clearly last year’s plan failed in terms of basketball after students only sold out the section twice and left an embarrassing amount of empty seats much of the rest of the year.

    Giving students the flexibility to only go to the games they wanted not only hurt the bottom line for the athletics department, it made the student section look like a joke on national television.

    Now that basketball tickets have become a sunk cost for students, the flexibility to pick which tickets to buy is gone, and that’s a good thing. Instead of students who are not diehard fans but still enjoy basketball only attending games like North Carolina, UCLA and ASU, they will have already paid for those tickets and will likely choose to go to more games.

    We’ll see how solid those excuses of having homework on Thursday night really are when all students have to do is click a button online – which Zona Zoo director Michael Huston promises to be “”much easier”” than the process of signing up for the pass last year – to attend the games.

    “”If that’s what we do, that system will remove the barrier of students having to buy tickets every single week,”” Huston said. “”Everybody will have tickets to the game, it’s just a matter of reserving the seat. I think that people will, knowing that they have a seat, they will be more inclined to use it rather than picking and choosing games.””

    If students still stay away from games despite the fact that they already have tickets, then we’ll really know that at least in terms of student fans this is not be the basketball school it so proudly proclaims to be.

    A potential downside to this plan would be if too many fans want to go to the basketball games now that all Zona Zoo holders are essentially paying for basketball tickets.

    As it stands, if this proposal passes, all of the people who buy a pass just for football would be overcharged while those who go to basketball games as well would get possibly the best deal in the Pacific 10 Conference, a stark contrast to this year when football tickets were a reasonable $60 while the full package was the most expensive in the conference at $202.

    If by chance more students want to attend basketball games on a consistent basis than the approximately 2,300-person section allows, Zona Zoo and Arizona Athletics will have to tweak the system to make sure distribution is fair, meaning going back to the Stone Ages to bring back the lottery is not an option.

    A better idea would be to institute a point system in which students would get credit for showing up to every basketball game, as well as a couple contests supporting smaller sports. This would kill two birds with one stone by improving student attendance for Arizona’s nationally-ranked baseball and softball teams, which annually is pretty bad.

    But for there ever to be a word of point systems at Arizona, students must first pack the stands in McKale Center.

    If all goes according to plan, this latest proposal just might do that.

    – Michael Schwartz is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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