Story by JANITA BADON
At the end of each summer, an average of 14,000 fans usually gather with family and friends to meet and greet the University of Utah varsity athletes as part of the annual Fan Fest. But with budgets tight, the popular program is in danger of being cut.
Sophomore guard for the University of Utah women’s basketball team Iwalani Rodrigues takes the fan fest seriously, and believes the Fan Fest helps the program.
“I met so many people because of the Fan Fest,” Rodrigues said. “If they take that away from us, I don’t know of another way to actually get more fans.”
Rodrigues, like many other varsity athletes at Utah, thinks the Fan Fest is beneficial to not only the attendance at the games, but also the support that it brings.
“I mean, of course, we don’t have as many fans as the men’s basketball team or as the football team, but when we have the Fan Fest it’s our (women’s basketball team) way of stealing fans,” Rodrigues said.
Losing the Fan Fest would also disappoint its main audience: the fans. Sasha McKinnon, a self-proclaimed “die hard” football fan, said she loves the Fan Fest, and thinks the Utes could potentially lose fans without it.
“I just think that the Fan Fest gives you a chance to talk to your favorite athlete, and ask all the questions that you want,” McKinnon said. “I think all the women on the varsity team at the U get fans because fans get to know them and are interested in seeing them in action, after meeting them at the Fan Fest. I honestly don’t think people know how good the soccer team is, or how good the volleyball women are, but when they go to the Fan Fest and interact with the players they’re more obligated to go to a game.”
Supporters say the Fan Fest is a great way for the fans to meet the players, get autographs, and eat free food, but Mary Bowman is the one who’s in charge of if it proceeds or not. Bowman, the Associate Athletic director at the U, says simple and plain, we don’t have the money for it.
“The Fan Fest is about $20,000 and it leaves us with not enough money for anything else,” Bowman said. “I personally love the Fan Fest but with economy being as bad as it is I just don’t we have enough money to have it, and have other activities that other fans enjoy.”
Understanding that the Fan Fest is beneficial to the Utah programs and the support for the athletes, Bowman said if they don’t have the funding there’s no way to have a Fan Fest as productive as the ones in the past. Doing a certain number of activities where the athletes are involved such as Scholarship Dinner, Athletes Interaction, and Halloween bowl night, money is limited and needs to be split evenly throughout the year. The Fan Fest just happens to be the one that cost the most money.