UA announced today they are introducing the Razorback Rooftop for students at Razorback Stadium for football games this season.
Basically, they're transforming the south end zone upper deck - formerly home to the glorious green death bleachers - into a club/lounge type of thing for up to 2,000 students.
According to the press release, "The club will include two 20 ft. x 80 ft. tents that will house a live DJ, couches, TVs, high-top tables, with grab-and-go concession items available for purchase. While in the club, students will have chances to register to win great prizes and take part in other contests."
Honestly, my initial reaction was that it seems like a bad idea to purposefully try to distract students from the game. I'm afraid it could attract students to the upper deck who would normally be in the lower level student section, who at least theoretically provide the largest source of fan energy in the stadium.
However, it seems my reaction was in the minority as many seem to think this is a great idea because it will either attract new fans who otherwise wouldn't attend the game or keep students in the stadium for a longer period of time instead of leaving as soon as they can. And if that is what happens, then that's fantastic and it will be great.
I'm just skeptical that students who otherwise wouldn't be at the game will climb their way to the top of the stadium for what is essentially a tailgate with no alcohol and spotty wifi. I understand that there are many students in attendance just for the social aspect and don't care about the game no matter what's going on, and this club is perfect for them. And if they go upstairs and spend time buying concessions during the game the school can at least make a little money off of them.
I just wish there were efforts to make fans more into the game instead of distracting from it. But hey, the south end zone upper deck has really been an underutilized piece of stadium real estate. It's a much wider space than you might expect and the views to the south are fantastic, so if nothing else, the Razorback Rooftop will hopefully be more aesthetically pleasing than the green death bleachers.
Okay, I was all set to publish this Tuesday night like it is above, but then Mike Waddell took issue with my initial skepticism moments before I published (you can check out our twitter timelines to see the whole thing) and I have a few points I want to make/clarify.
I understand the nationwide effort to keep and retain students in stadiums for football games and I applaud UA's awareness of the issue and attempts to come up with ideas to help the situation.
Like I wrote above, this works if it adds to the current student section environment, but it doesn't if it takes away from the lower level student section. I'm skeptical this will attract new students to the stadium who otherwise wouldn't come to a game for the reasons I've already mentioned.
I'm absolutely an advocate for keeping/strengthening fans engagement with the game. I'm concerned that this purposefully distracts from it.
If the purpose of promoting game attendance to students is the prospect of them eventually becoming season ticket holders after graduation, I don't know that setting them up in a living room/sports bar area in which the game itself is not even visible in certain parts is the best way to do that. I find it hard to believe that sitting on couches will lead to sitting in bleachers.
I believe filling a stadium is not complicated. Field a decent team and if they're playing a decent opponent and the tickets are acceptably priced, the stadium will be full. Anything else is window dressing. Field a bad team, schedule cupcakes, and/or make ticket prices too high and attendance will suffer. I don't believe very many people will make the commitment to attend a game in person because of a DJ or door prizes or the quality of the sound system.
Attendance will suffer as long as Arkansas is a bad team. Both in the student section and among the general fan base. That's just part of it. That's why attendance is often a major factor in deciding whether to retain coaches.
Fans don't stay home because the sound system sucks (although I am very much in favor of upgrading it as much as possible!). They stay home because they decide the commitment (whether money, time, energy, likelihood of frustration via losing, whatever) isn't worth it.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
I really don't care that a lounge area is popular at Cowboys Stadium. College football is not the NFL and we don't want it to be. College football is known for passion. GameDay can set up at any campus and get tons of passionate fans to wake up before dawn just to hold up a sign behind Kirk Herbstreit. All NFL morning preview shows are in studios. It's a much more sterile product.
Build passion. Build engagement for the game. Don't build lethargy and apathy by taking students away from the game. Don't NFL-ize college football.
Again, it all depends on how the students react. If it pulls students out of the lower level student section, it's bad. If it does in fact draw new students into the stadium, it's great.
I'm sure everyone is excited and will fill the stadium for Nicholls State.
If you're a student who wants to go up there, here's how you can get to be one of the 2,000:
The Razorback Rooftop will be open to students who are current Access Pass holders who present their student ID and have a designated wristband. Up to 2,000 wristbands will be made available for each home game. Wristbands will be distributed on a first come, first serve basis at the following locations the week of each home football game:
- Collegiate Members of the Razorback Foundation, who are also Access Pass holders, may pick up their wristband at the Foundation office Monday-Wednesday from 8:30-4:30 each day. The Foundation is located at 1295 S. Razorback Road, adjacent to Baum Stadium;
- Every Thursday and Friday at the Student Union at the Athletics Marketing Table to Access Pass Holders and Collegiate Members from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.;
- Any remaining wristbands will be available on game day at the Student Gate (Gate 17) for Access Pass holders, Collegiate Members and/or any UA student with a valid student ID and paid admission to the game.
- Up to 750 wristbands will be reserved for UA Student Organizations who register their organization online (click here to reserve).