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The Daily Wildcat

 

Incoming students face new $100 mandatory athletics fee

The+Arizona+Board+of+Regents+wait+to+hear+comments+from+the+public+at+their+meeting+on+April+6+in+the+Grand+Ballroom+at+the+Student+Union+Memorial+Center.
Michelle Tomaszkowicz

The Arizona Board of Regents wait to hear comments from the public at their meeting on April 6 in the Grand Ballroom at the Student Union Memorial Center.

Incoming students enrolling for the fall 2017 semester will find a new $100 athletics fee on their bursar’s account.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the athletics fee in a 7-1 vote at their April 6 meeting. 

The fee is $100 for new undergraduates and $50 for new graduate students. Graduate students will be able to opt out. Undergraduate students will not have that option.

Erika Barnes, interim athletics director, said the fee is an overall fee to support athletics programs, facilities and the improvement of the student and fan experience, not a fee for just one project. The estimated yearly revenue, once the fee is fully integrated, is *$3.2 million with the potential to borrow up to $75 million.

“We’ve been pretty fiscally responsible,” Barnes said. “We’ve had a positive fund balance for over 31 years.” In the meantime, we’ve also done some critical capital projects that we’ve really relied on private support for.”

Earlier this year, Arizona Athletics received a $1 million donation from former Wildcat baseball star and Cleveland Indians manager, Terry Francona, for a new indoor hitting facility for the baseball program.

The athletics program is also developing a student-athlete academic center south of McKale Center with a $7.5 million price tag, courtesy of the Wildcat Club, a group of donors for athletics.

This is the first time athletics has been supported by the general student body and not just those who purchase passes or tickets.

“Having a new revenue stream will help us in the future in our visions of what we want for our programs, our facilities and to benefit our students and our fans,” Barnes said.

One benefit for fans is a plan to improve the Wi-Fi in McKale Center, Arizona Stadium and eventually all athletic venues.

Students will still have to pay $175 for a red ZonaZoo pass for access to men’s basketball and football games, and $135 for a blue ZonaZoo pass for access to football games.

Barnes said the reasoning behind keeping the passes was due to the valuable social aspect and school spirit the student section provides.

According to Barnes, the amount of money transferred from the athletics department back to ZonaZoo will increase from $85,000 to $125,000 as a result of the fee, giving students a greater role in deciding the use of those funds.

RELATED: Students petition Arizona Board of Regents on matters of “fruition and bees” and DACA students during public comment portion of board meeting

“We didn’t want to make that decision for them, they get to use their creative juices,” Barnes said.

Michael Finnegan, Associated Students for the University of Arizona president, said the original proposed fee was much higher.

“It was originally proposed around $300, which was absolute insanity,” Finnegan said. “We were able to talk it down to $100.”

According to Finnegan, the $300 fee would have replaced the whole ZonaZoo pass. The $100 fee will provide admission to UA sporting events, excluding men’s basketball and football for undergraduates.

Jude Udeozor, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said he felt the benefits in return for the fee were fair.

“We got the opinion of the students and found a few were willing to pay the fee but not more than $50,” Udeozor said. “However, 80 percent did not want to.”

Graduate students get a 50 percent discount on season tickets for their immediate family and are eligible to purchase a $125 white ZonaZoo pass for admission to all regular season men’s basketball games at McKale Center.

“Our compromise was the fee would be an opt-out fee, so those who didn’t want to pay didn’t have to, and those who wanted to would get significant benefits in return,” Udeozor said.

Finnegan also said the compromises were sufficient because although ASUA would prefer no fees or increases, they realize the value in cooperation.

“We can either participate in these conversations and lower the price as much as possible or we can fight it every step of the way and the original proposal would have went through,” Finnegan said. “We’re really given an ultimatum, and it’s rough because I know students get really angry when they see this, and obviously they blame ASUA, but the alternative was worse.”

Barnes said the athletics department intends to continue working with students.

“We want ZonaZoo and the student body president and the graduate body president to be part of our facilities planning committee because we want their involvement in those plans,” Barnes said. “Because of this fee, they have a commitment too, so we want to get their recommendations.”

RELATED: New UA students facing fee increases, tuition bump

Alexandra Cordell, philosophy, politics, economics and law senior, spoke about the fee at the April 6 regents meeting during the call to the public. She said the fee was unlike other service fees and therefore, not fair.

“I valued athletics while I was here, but it’s unfair to make all students pay when they don’t all share these values,” Cordell said.

Barnes said aside from the benefit of admission, the benefits for students not interested in sports are indirect, in the form of strengthening and supporting the athletics department’s partnerships with Campus Health Service, the student affairs office, the Dean of Students Office, Campus Recreation and the Provost.

“My hope is that students see that this is overall for the greater good of the university,” Barnes said. “We have a vision of staying strong in all of our areas. From health and rec to IT and the library and athletics as well.”

According to Barnes, this kind of fee is common and the fee revenue will also be used for operations maintenance.

“We really want to be selective and strategic, but we really want to commit to the student and fan experience,” Barnes said. “I think it’s really important to have that balance when you’re reviewing improvements or enhancement, whether in programs or facilities.”

In the Pac-12, the University of Washington is the only university without a student-wide athletics fee.

Finnegan agreed athletics are a part of campus life but thought the fee didn’t have enough to do with education to be applied to all students.

“It’s the unfortunate reality of the situation that we live in, that athletics is seen as a priority,” Finnegan said.

*CORRECTION: The story originally stated the estimated annual revenue was $75 million, rather than $3.2 million with the potential to borrow up to $75 million.


Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.


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