Thursday, October 4, 2012
Initial ticket sales at UNT’s new eco-friendly Apogee Stadium have been mediocre
Said the athletic director, "[I] just see thousands of folks or more still tailgating in the middle of the second quarter.”
DENTON At this time last year, Apogee Stadium was the talk of the campus. Now that the stadium is a year old, it feels like traveling across the highway is routine.
With Fouts Field no longer hosting football games, Apogee Stadium is the highlight of the Mean Green’s athletics facilities.
The $78 million stadium is so new that it has yet to host more than 10 total home games in its career. The university set high standards for Apogee, which brings up the question: Did it accomplish what everyone hoped?
Before the stadium opened, advertisements about season tickets flooded the campus, TV stations, and billboards along the campus.
The athletic program sold 18 of the 19 suites Apogee has to offer and approximately 650 of the 750 club level seats in the stadium’s first year.
“We have sold additional seats this year so that number has risen now, but we don’t want to sell all of the seats,” Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said. “We want to retain some of those club level seats for those who want to make significant contributions to the program.”
While the club level seats and suites’ sales numbers are impressive, the overall attendance hasn’t seen a rise from the attendance at Fouts Field.
The first game in Apogee Stadium brought in a crowd of 28,075 fans – the third highest attendance at a UNT home game – but when compared to the season average for Apogee’s inaugural season and the final two seasons at Fouts Field, there is no obvious change.
In Fouts Field’s final two seasons, the stadium averaged an attendance of 18,228 fans and 17,718 fans per home game, respectively. Apogee’s inaugural season averaged 18,864 spectators.
After a record setting crowd to open the stadium, the total attendance began to dwindle as the season went on.
“What we have got to do is get the students to come out and tailgate and enjoy themselves, but when it’s game time they have to get inside the stadium,” Villarreal said. “I can look out over the back of the stadium where I sit and just see thousands of folks or more still tailgating in the middle of the second quarter.”
Part of the reason for the steady fan numbers may be attributed to the location of other Sun Belt football teams. As of now, the closest university to UNT is 326 miles away, at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. By car, it’d take Louisiana fans almost six hours to drive to Denton.
That distance is extensive for any opposing fan base to travel. Not surprisingly, Apogee’s highest attendance came when the team played the University of Houston in last year’s home opener.
Apogee also has a more green approach than Fouts had.
Some of the biggest contributors to the green cause are the three windmills that the university received through grants. It is estimated that the wind turbines save about 8 to 10 percent of the total energy used by the stadium and adjacent buildings.
Windmills, solar panels, and nontoxic and biodegradable materials within the stadium are all parts of Apogee’s Platinum level LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Certification. It provides an exclusive title that gives the stadium high publicity because it is the very first collegiate stadium of its kind.
“There is no comparison. Fouts was a great facility, but its time had gotten the best of it,” said Nick Nagel, UNT’s director of Facilities and Event Management. “Everything you see in the stadium contributed to the LEED certification. From the windmills to the high efficiency toilets in the restroom, it all contributed.”
In this season’s home opener, Apogee welcomed 22,259 spectators to see UNT face Division II school Texas Southern, an indication that an average attendance through the season could struggle to reach 20,000 per home game once again.
Players on the UNT football team have said that the stadium is louder and the atmosphere is electric during UNT home games.
“The fans are right on top of the field, and the results simply outdo Fouts Field,” junior linebacker Zachary Orr said.
This season, Apogee may be more electric, but the home attendance has plateaued for the time being.
Pegasus News Content partner - North Texas Daily
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