ZonaZoo student section revamped for new Arizona football season
Friday marks the official start of the Arizona football season and big changes for ZonaZoo.
The changes to the student section make it smaller and more interactive and feature incentives for students to stay longer.
“There’s a lot of cool things coming,” said Mario Ziccarelli, ZonaZoo executive director. “One is called the ‘Wild One Section,’ which is going to be an area that is roped off with velvet ropes. It’s going to run from the 40-yard line to the 50-yard line and the craziest, wildest, most passionate fans are going to get let in almost like a night club … It’s going to showcase the best fans we have, and hopefully that atmosphere will grow throughout the whole stadium.”
Another big change is that now only 9,000 students will be let into the ZonaZoo section, as opposed to 10,000 previously. The band has been moved into the ZonaZoo section and a young alumni section has been added so recent graduates can still feel like a part of the ZonaZoo section.
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Football vs Washington
Despite the renovations to the football stadium, ZonaZoo members will still enter through the gate located next to the southeast ticketing office. However, the gate will now open 90 minutes before kickoff, instead of two hours before.
“I think that’s a really good move for the students in general,” Ziccarelli said. “[It] allows students to hang out, go see the Wildcat Walk now and then walk right into the stadium. That way we’re not sitting in the student section for two hours in the sun, and then by the time that the game kicks off everyone’s already exhausted.”
Despite a recent drop in student attendance for football games and a trend of students leaving early, head football coach Rich Rodriguez said he loves ZonaZoo.
“I think it’s one of the best student sections in the country,” Rodriguez said. “I really truly believe that it can be the best student section, because we have a large student body that is very passionate about sports. If we can get the students to not only keep coming and fill [the ZonaZoo] up, but to stay the whole game and make a lot of noise when the other team has the ball, I think we could be the best student section in the country.”
ZonaZoo leaders said they are actively trying to keep the section full.
“The other big thing we’re doing this year for football is promoting staying the whole game,” Ziccarelli said. “I think it’s important for the team and the program in general to have a strong, passionate fan base.”
For the first two home games, ZonaZoo is giving away five $500 cash prizes. When students swipe their CatCards to enter the game, they are automatically entered into the random drawing. The catch is that in order to receive one of the cash prizes, the winning students have to be present.
“As long as they’re present, they’re going to win it,” Ziccarelli said. “If that’s not incentive for kids to stay, it’s hard to know what else to do.”
Another incentive for students to stay is the addition of new interactive opportunities, like the chance to place cards on the wall in front of ZonaZoo to keep track of the penalties in the game.
Even the ZonaZoo shirt, designed by UA graduate Krista Maki, is challenging students to keep supporting the Wildcats until the very last seconds of the game, boldly stating, “ZonaZoo Stays the Entire Game” on the back.
“Arizona football is really starting to peak right now, and I think that our student section is gonna grow right along with it,” Ziccarelli said. “We’ve made great strides in the 11 years now that we’ve been around. I think that we’re only going to get better as the football team improves. We’re really excited this year because I think athletics and us both want to kind of innovate and do new things for the students.”
More than 6,000 ZonaZoo passes had been sold as of Saturday, according to Beth Megerle, associate athletic director for customer relations management and ticket sales.
“With online sales that number goes up just about every minute, and we anticipate that total will double in this coming week,” Megerle said. “Almost half of the ZonaZoo passes are sold the week of the first home game and the following week as students settle into campus.”
-Follow Brittney Klewer @BrittneyKlewer
James Kelley contributed to this report.