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Student section blocked off

Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Because of the increase in Zona Zoo pass sales, the student section at Arizona Stadium has been overcrowding. Large numbers of fans have packed the student section to capacity for three of the four home games this season.
By Holly Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 24, 2005
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More Zona Zoo passes sold than seats in section

A jump in student attendance at football games has forced security guards to block admittance to the student section before the game-time whistle blows, officials said.

So far 11,640 Zona Zoo passes that grant UA students access to the student section have been bought this year, up from the 9,468 purchased last year, said Russ Dean, assistant athletic director.

The Zona Zoo pass has become a necessity for freshmen and sophomores, Dean said, resulting in more students attending the game.

"They automatically buy it like they buy their CatCard," he said.

But when the student section reaches its full capacity of 10,000, the security staff directs the remaining Zona Zoo students to different sections, including the upper level, said Susan Mason, associate director for events management.

Additional security guards have also been hired to monitor the numbers at each game, Mason said.

"There has been an increase in the student section so the staff is more visible," she said.

The security guards keep track of how many people get into the student section and then direct students to other seats when an area is full, Mason said.

The first three games attracted crowds nearing the stadium capacity, with 53,000, 56,000 and 54,000 fans attending, respectively, Mason said.

During the first two games the student section was filled to capacity before kickoff, with the third game's student section coming close to capacity, Mason said.

Saturday's game seemed a little less crowded with only the middle part of the student section being blocked off by security guards.

Psychology senior Ben Nazareno said he went to the first two home games, and both times he had to sit in the second-level section even though he has a Zona Zoo pass.

At both games he arrived about 15 minutes after kickoff to find the security guards had already blocked off the Zona Zoo section, Nazareno said.

"People were complaining, some were really mad," he said.

But the gates to the football stadium open 90 minutes before every game, Mason said, and those who want to get a good seat should come early and with the people they want to sit with.

Despite being directed to an unfilled section, the upper level of the stadium was still really crowded, Nazareno said.

Eddie Caratachea, a pre-physiology freshman, said he's been to three of the home games and thinks the crowdedness is part of the fun.

"It's no big deal," Caratachea said. "It's part of being there and people get more into it."

Although attendance has been higher than usual, Mason said, the security staff has not seen an increase in behavior problems.

"In general the students have been phenomenal," she said. "Some were turned away during game one and two and weren't very happy, but there's been few behavioral issues."

Police have not seen an increase in problems either, said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, University of Arizona Police Department spokesman.

There have been more officers at this year's games than at last year's, Mejia said, and the number the department decides to send depends on the ticket sales.

"Students may have noticed more of us in the student section," he said. "We maintain a high visibility. We're there in case something happens."

The most common problems at football games are disorderly conduct and underage drinking, Mejia said.

People sometimes show threatening behavior, especially toward the other team, and there are also students who try to sneak in alcohol, he said.

Mejia said depending on the situation, these people are usually evicted from the game and receive a citation.

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