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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: ZonaZoo needs to recapture its luster

Tyler+Baker+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ADuring+the+first+half+of+Arizonas+28-26+loss+to+USC+at+Arizona+Stadium+on+October+11th.
Tyler Baker
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat During the first half of Arizona’s 28-26 loss to USC at Arizona Stadium on October 11th.

Nestled in the hills of Pasadena, Calif., the Rose Bowl is college football heaven.

“America’s stadium” has hosted national championships, Super Bowls and the World Cup Final. Alabama’s fight song even mentions it.

The Rose Bowl is first-class all the way. The entrance to the press box and luxury seating has blue carpeting, like a Bruin version of a red carpet. It even has a metal Kleenex dispenser in the bathroom.

There was one thing the Rose Bowl was missing, though: a dominant student section similar to the ZonaZoo. Yes, UCLA does have one, and it is pretty big, but unless you looked at a seating diagram, you couldn’t tell where it was.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to three road games in 2013 and 2014 to two nice locales — Oregon and UCLA — and ASU. The Sun Devil students were the most noticeable of the three, but unlike the ZonaZoo, the only time you ever hear about them is when they wear blackface in the 21st century.

Oregon’s Autzen Stadium is loud, but its student section is tucked away in the corner. It’s an afterthought.

Their students stay the entire game, unlike much of the ZonaZoo. They stay so long, they even play a beer-pong-like game in the stands.

If they had decent seats, how good would Autzen look?

As for UCLA, it’s hard to imagine Los Angeles fans being intimidating, but if it moved The Den to a spot similar to the ZonaZoo, instead of its corner slot like Oregon’s, then it could boost the crowd. While attendance was 80,246, the atmosphere was pretty weak.

It felt like a baseball game. The fans would sit on their hands until third down or a score, like how baseball fans play with their phones until there are two strikes or a score.

In the Pac-12 Conference, only Oregon State has a student section that runs end zone to end zone like the UA, but those seats comprise a much smaller percentage of those sections than the ZonaZoo, which is all of the lower deck on the east side.

The ZonaZoo is special.

Last year, ESPN ranked the ZonaZoo as the best student section in the Pac-12 — after the Associated Students of the University of Arizona officials who run it and the UA added incentives to stay and shrinked it by 1,000 seats.

However, the ZonaZoo has slumped this year, most notably in the California game where thousands of fans missed the “Hill Mary” even though they attended the game.For the last few years, there have been whispers that the ZonaZoo will move. It’s happened before.

In the 1980s, ASUA infamously gave up courtside student seating at men’s basketball games.

Don’t give the UA a reason to further shrink the ZonaZoo or stick it in a corner. Go to games and stay.

The perpetual goal of Arizona football, the only Pac-10 team that hasn’t made the Rose Bowl, is to make it to the Rose Bowl game. But don’t let Arizona Stadium end up like the Rose Bowl.

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Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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