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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Zona Zoo sets sales record

    Students celebrate in the Zona Zoo student section on Saturday during the football game at Arizona Stadium. More students have invested in the Zona Zoo pass this year than in the three previous years of its existence.
    Students celebrate in the Zona Zoo student section on Saturday during the football game at Arizona Stadium. More students have invested in the Zona Zoo pass this year than in the three previous years of its existence.

    Despite raising student-ticket prices to the highest in the Pacific 10 Conference this year, Arizona Athletics set a sales record with its Zona Zoo pass Saturday evening.

    This year’s total was about 20 passes short of last year’s mark before the start of the Arizona football team’s 7 p.m. game against Stephen F. Austin at Arizona Stadium, during which the record 11,685th pass was sold at the McKale Center Ticket Office, said Arizona director of ticket operations Darren Graessle.

    Michael Huston, the Zona Zoo spirit director, said he expected the pass to sell in record numbers this year despite a rise in its base price to $60 from $40 in 2005.

    Huston said he expects sales – which were at 11,719 as of 4 p.m. yesterday – to remain strong through the rest of the fall semester, estimating the final tally at about 12,000 to 15,000.

    “”I’m very excited,”” he said. “”It’s a great achievement for the program, and I think it’s a testament to the program we’ve built already.””

    Officials from the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and Arizona Athletics met throughout last spring to revamp the Zona Zoo package, with the biggest change in services being the abolishment of the lottery system for UA men’s basketball tickets.

    Arizona Athletics increased the base price of the pass this year to accommodate growing travel and operations costs, and consequently, the cost for students to attend every UA home game jumped 100 percent to $224, the highest in the Pac-10.

    That price includes two extra men’s basketball games and the ASU football game, which can be purchased for an additional $10 with the pass.

    Athletic department officials defended the price increase by touting the improvement of the UA football program under third-year head coach Mike Stoops, as well as the national-powerhouse status of head coach Lute Olson’s men’s basketball team.

    ASUA, in turn, developed a series of new programs for pass-holders, with the intention of giving students more benefits with their purchase than simply a red Zona Zoo T-shirt.

    “”If it’s for a good reason, and we’re getting benefits with the pass, then they shouldn’t have any problems selling it,”” said Brie Lieber, a psychology sophomore.

    Huston said he thought the main causes for the pass’ added popularity this year have been increased student awareness of the program, word of mouth and the changes in the men’s basketball ticket system.

    Under the former lottery during the first two years the pass was offered, tickets were awarded to pass-holders at random. Last year, seniority was factored in as well, but still the system drew complaints from fans who cited a lack of opportunity to attend home games and sit in the McKale Center student section created last year.

    To address those concerns, the system was changed this year so students with a Zona Zoo pass can go online to beginning at 6 a.m. Mondays before home games and buy individual tickets for $11.

    “”As the leaders of Zona Zoo, we felt we were in a position to improve the program and do some cool things,”” Huston said. “”I think students have responded to that.””

    The absence of the lottery, Huston said, could enhance sales. The past two years, students who bought passes after mid-September were ineligible for tickets.

    This year, Graessle said, pass-holders have until Oct. 27 to have a chance at the Wildcats’ home opener, an exhibition game against Team Georgia Nov. 4.

    Graessle said he could see sales easily exceeding 12,000, although they should drop off in the spring, when football season is over and men’s basketball is well into its schedule.

    “”People don’t really see the point after that, unless they plan to see a lot of softball and baseball,”” Graessle said.

    Jaime Reyes, a microbiology junior, said he bought the pass for a third straight year to get his first guaranteed shot at a seat in McKale.

    Reyes said while the new ticket system is an improvement, it still doesn’t reward students who buy the first tickets online each week with the best seats in the student section.

    Reyes said he also disagreed with having to pay an extra $10 to attend the home football game against ASU Nov. 25.

    “”We’re paying way more for the same amount of games,”” Reyes said.

    Nonetheless, Zona Zoo pass-holders have been eager to make their numbers known, as evidenced at the football team’s first two home games this season.

    Students have created such competition for standing-room seating in the 10,000-capacity section at Arizona Stadium that most of the area was filled an hour and a half before the Wildcats’ season opener against Brigham Young Sept. 2.

    Lieber was among that first-week throng, and though she doesn’t consider herself much of a football fan, she said she still bought the pass to go to games with friends.

    “”It was a lot of fun in the first half because everyone’s really into it,”” Lieber said. “”Then, come halftime, you were, like, ‘OK, I’m done.’ But the student section was a lot of fun.””

    Jayme Berkel, a communication junior, said she purchased the pass to get closer to her hallmates at Babcock Residence Hall after transferring from Bowling Green State before the school year.

    A self-proclaimed pro-football fanatic, Berkel pledges to go to UA games despite hearing of the team’s poor performance the past few seasons.

    “”I figured (buying the pass) would be a good way to see for myself and make some friends,”” Berkel said.

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