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What the ZonaZoo did this year to become even better

zona-zoo-crew
Courtesy Matt Etherington | The Daily Wildcat Members of the Zona Zoo Crew smile for a picture during halftime at an Arizona football game.

One of the most important parts of a home atmosphere for any game is the student section. Take a look back at the past year and what the ZonaZoo Crew has done to make the student experience that much better.

Ever since it’s creation back in 2003, the ZonaZoo has become one of the largest student sections, not just in the Pac-12, but throughout the whole country. 

It has won awards back in 2015 and 2018 by the National Collegiate Student Section Association for being student section of the year. Even though that award is based on Twitter polls, it helps that ZonaZoo has the largest Twitter following of any student section in the entire country.

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Running a student section isn’t as easy as one might think, especially when it’s the size of the one at the UA. The people who are in charge of the student section are called the ZonaZoo Crew. Matt Etherington has been the executive director for the past year now but has been a part of ZonaZoo since his freshman year.

“You apply [at the end of] your freshman year and then you start your sophomore year,”  Etherington said. “Most people go through the general crew phase, and if they want to, they can go for a director position.”

Within the crew there are many different leadership positions: executive director, associate director, branding and marketing director, media and communications director, event management director, gameday director, branding and marketing teams, media and communications teams and event management teams. This past year, there were 30 students helping to run the student section. 

The reason for such a staff is that a lot that goes into what the ZonaZoo actually does. There need to be people to run the tailgates, run social media accounts, take pictures and videos, go on trips and be in charge of promotions. 

In recent years, however, the attendance of the ZonaZoo at basketball and football games has gone down. Just this past year Etherington came up with his own ways of getting more students to go to football games. And it seemed to work. The 2019 season saw a rise in attendance compared to 2018.

“We wanted to give people a reason to actually show up to a game,” Etherington said. “One thing we wanted to make sure we had was giveaways.” Etherington also wanted the Twitter page to be more involved. “I saw it if ZonaZoo is always popping up on your timeline, then it’s going to stick in your head.” 

The ZonaZoo is one of the most important reasons for a home-field advantage for Arizona Athletics. When Dave Heeke took over as Athletic Director, he has instituted a $100 athletics fee for students, which allows students to attend every sporting event besides football and men’s basketball. 

Students can then buy a Blue Membership for $100 to gain access to football as well as the other sports. There is also a Red Membership for $150 for access to football and men’s basketball as well as the other sports. 

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There are only 5,581 seats available for the ZonaZoo for football games, so it’s based on a first-come-first-served basis. Men’s basketball attendance is based on who reserves their seats first. Reservations for the week of basketball games opens up a week in advance. 

Etherington knows that recently people have been more inclined to stay home and watch games from the comfort of their couch. But he also wanted to leave this message for anyone that’s on the fence and unsure if they want to join the ZonaZoo:

“If you’re passionate enough about our school and you’re prideful about our student representation, it goes a long way,” Etherington said. “Without the ZonaZoo Crew’s efforts, we might not have that many students.”

It takes many students to make up the ZonaZoo, but when it’s in full force, it really can be a game-changer on the field. Many coaches and athletes have given praise to the students and fans when they do show up to their games.  


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