The ZonaZoo will give away $1,500 on Saturday to entice students to stay at the Utah game, extending what was originally a two-game promotion after some cash prizes were not claimed.
ZonaZoo executive director Mario Ziccarelli said unclaimed prizes resulted in a budget surplus.
“We thought that the proper way to utilize that was to give that back to the students and give them another opportunity to win that cash prize,” Ziccarelli said.
In the first two home games against NAU and UTSA, five fans were chosen at random and given $500 each at the conclusion of the games.
“The giveaways are a good way to carry on after a month off from football,” said Ziccarelli, a senior majoring in Italian and psychology. “We are going to break it up so it’s two $100 giveaways, three $250 giveaways and one $550 giveaway, which will be given out throughout the fourth quarter.”
For the past few years, ZonaZoo’s attendance has been disappointing to other fans and the media.
Economics junior Ben Rosenfield said he is regularly one of the first students in line before games.
“I think the cash giveaways have been successful in getting people to stay longer,” Rosenfield said. “So far, in the two home games we’ve had this year, it’s felt more like an event. The section in general has filled up and become more energized, and more people have been staying later in the game.”
As it’s been more than a month since the last home football game, even the more casual fans are looking forward to the Wildcats’ return this weekend.
Nutritional sciences sophomore Danielle Frank said seeing the team after its long span without home games is more appealing than the prizes.
“I’ve missed being at [home] games,” Frank said. “It’s been so long since the last one; but regardless, sometimes I get tired around halftime and I decide whether or not I stay late in the game based on how I feel and whether or not the game is close.”
Ziccarelli said he considers the promotion a success.
“I don’t have exact numbers,” he said. “I know that game one we were near capacity, we almost had 9,000, and I think game two we were a little less than that, I think right around 8,000.”
The cash prizes were part of a series of new promotions by ZonaZoo to combat student apathy, but Ziccarelli credits a lot of the change to head coach Rich Rodriguez and the football program.
“I think that the cash incentive might have some kids stay the entire game,” Zicarelli said, “but I think that the culture is starting to change around U of A football and our fanbase. I think that’s what we’re starting to see.”
Although the giveaway was extended once, it most likely will not be brought back for the next game after this.
“I’d say for this year probably not, but I think that it has proven to be very successful and I hope that it is something that will continue in the future,” Ziccarelli said.
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17