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Extreme heat overshadows UB’s first opportunity to create ideal game day atmosphere

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Faythe Nunes, a senior psychology major, and her friends had problems finding a row of seats during the first half of the football team’s blowout victory against Albany Saturday.

But she didn’t have those same problems during the second half of the game. She was there for only a little bit of the third quarter before she and many other UB students left the student grandstand and made their way to air conditioning.

Buffalo is notorious for its extreme weather conditions, especially during the cold winter months. But there are times when Buffalo experiences the opposite weather extreme and it throws many people off guard. On Saturday, UB fans witnessed it first hand.

Even with the new-and-improved game day atmosphere, the uncontrollable heat – which reached more than 95 degrees at certain points throughout the afternoon – was the downfall of student attendance during the second half – an area that UB Athletics had hoped to approve with promotions and an interactive game day atmosphere.

“The one hurdle which we can’t control is the weather,” said Todd Garzarelli, senior associate athletic director for external affairs. “The heat led people to come a little later and exit a little bit earlier. But other that that, a lot people were excited to come out.”

The game’s announced attendance was 20,872 – roughly 500 more fans from last season’s opener against Duquesne, which totaled 20,329. And it looked that way in UB Stadium for the first 24 minutes, but the stadium looked completely different come the second half.

Many students enjoyed themselves during the pregame activities, which included a tailgate at Baird Point and a performance by country duo Thompson Square as part of the Tailgate Concert Series. To many students, the pregame was the best part of the day. Robert Featherstone, a senior business major, stayed at the tailgate for more than two hours. He said he would have liked to see more food vendors at the tailgate at Baird Point like there were last year. Otherwise, he enjoyed hanging out with a bunch of friends in the parking lot and playing games like cornhole in the shady tree-filled area near the parking lot.

Garzarelli was glad students found shade in the unbearable heat.

“It’s an open area,” he said. “Even last year, students found their way to the trees because of the weather. If you had a group of friends that wanted to play cornhole, space was limited in the parking lot.”

But Featherstone didn’t go to the game. He could have been convinced to go, but he feels UB Athletics needs to do a better job “pumping up the crowd” during the pregame.

“The school should be more involved with it,” Featherstone said. “The only people that are UB affiliated were UB police officers. There should have been a mascot or someone pumping students up to go to the game. People are just coming and going just for an excuse to drink on North Campus.”

But there were still a number of students that did enter through the gates of UB Stadium. Tyler Radzyminski, a junior mechanical engineering major, stayed for the first half of the game and was excited that Buffalo had a huge lead heading into the third quarter. He thought the game was basically over, but the overbearing heat was ultimately the deciding factor for his departure from the stadium.

“It was hot. It had quite a bit to do with why we left,” Radzyminski said. “It wasn’t a close game. It was really hot and I thought it was too hot to stay.”

Radzyminski and junior exercise science major Ashton Devall think promotions and giveaways throughout the game may entice more students to stay and watch the game for longer than the first quarter. UB Athletics did hold a $10,000 punt, pass and kick challenge during halftime of Saturday’s game.

Garzarelli said a plan is already in place for weather extremities, which could be devastating heat or a notoriously cold Buffalo winter that many students are accustomed to. He said water coolers will be made readily available during hot games and hot chocolate and chili could potentially be available for colder games later on in the season.

Garzarelli also noted various foods will be made available in the stands and in the brand-new Student VIP Patio, which was considered a success as well. He expects more food to be made available to students throughout the game to ensure students stay.

“We’re continuing to do better to entertain our consumers,” Garzarelli said, “and also build up in-game environments as well.”

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at jordan.grossman@ubspectrum.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman.


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