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News
Commentary: Don't rush to buy Zona Zoo passes


Photo
Justin St. Germain
By Justin St. Germain
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday September 12, 2003

If today is like the last week or so, there's probably a half-page ad somewhere in this sports section reminding you just how critical it is that you join the ranks of Zona Zoo before today's cutoff for entry into the special basketball ticket lottery.

If you're like me, though, you've been reading these ads and putting it off until the last minute, partly because procrastination is what you do best and partly because of a vague, nagging resentment having to do with the idea of paying another $35 out of your tuition hike-emptied wallet.

At first glance, it seems like there's nothing wrong with Zona Zoo. A couple weeks ago, there was an article in this very paper lauding the program as "a big success" due to solid sales. In that article, one of the associate athletic directors went so far as to call Zona Zoo "a wonderful program for everybody."

For $35, you get a t-shirt, football season tickets, entry into women's basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball events, newsletters and a spot in a special ticket lottery for lower-level basketball seats. Sounds like a bargain that is, until you look a little closer.

First of all, and least important, the t-shirt is blue. Arizona fans have traditionally worn red to games. We don't have enough football tradition at this school to start violating what little we have in a lame attempt by the spirit department to be, in the words of its director, "wild and crazy."

But Zona Zoo's problems run much deeper than the blue of the shirts. Free entry into the other major sporting events sounds good, except for the fact that admission to these events was always free. What the pass really did for the "other" sports is raise student ticket prices, since anybody who dares not to submit to Zona Zoo will now have to pay to get in. Essentially, what used to be free now costs $35.

Or does it? Read the fine print, and you'll see that there's an additional $5 "service charge." Apparently, it wasn't enough for the athletics department to begin charging students for things that used to be free they had to tack on another hidden $5. But I guess the price is reasonable, seeing as how our tuition hasn't gone up in a while.

At this point, anybody reading this in McKale Center is probably screaming, "But the $35 includes football season tickets!" This is true, but that doesn't make it a bargain. Due to a myriad of reasons, including a stacked schedule and the four-month abomination that was last season, Arizona football entered this year with dismal prospects and the specter of a coaching change looming on the horizon. Nobody was lining up for season football tickets before Zona Zoo came around, so the athletics department decided to strong-arm anybody who wanted a legitimate shot at decent basketball seats into buying season football tickets as well which is what Zona Zoo boils down to.

Needless to say, those same football tickets have not become the hottest of commodities in the wake of one of the biggest embarrassments in school history against Louisiana State.

The people who want you to buy the pass the athletic department, the ASUA spirit department, Satan make it out to be an attempt to generate school spirit. But it doesn't reward people who attend a certain number of non-basketball events by awarding points and distributing basketball tickets accordingly, like real sports passes at schools like Stanford do. The athletics department doesn't care if somebody actually goes to a game at all, as long as they pony up the money for the pass.

It's not a bargain like the athletic department wants you to believe. Zona Zoo is simple extortion. They're making students pay for a sub-par football program.

As if that wasn't enough, there's more to hate about Zona Zoo. The athletic department used last year's ticket-voucher debacle as an excuse to change the system to a lottery like the one that was in place before the idiotic "line up and fight" method except for the additional $35 fee.

The program is also portrayed by its supporters as an attempt to forge a spirited student section at football games, which it may well do. But since when does the athletic department care about a spirited student section? If it cares so much about a student section, where's the one in McKale Center? If there was one, none of us would have to put up with Zona Zoo in the first place.

It's easy to sit at a distance and criticize new programs, particularly those as horribly misguided and exploitative as Zona Zoo, and not offer any useful alternatives. But all the plan needs is a point system (and red shirts) in order to become a legitimate fan organization. And it needs a point system now, while students are paying in record numbers for it not in a couple years.

In the meantime, don't let yourself be coerced into paying a fee to be a fan of Arizona basketball. Don't buy the Zona Zoo pass.

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