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UVSC hopes ‘Unknown Zone’ brings cheer(s)

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UVSC hopes to create a student-fan section similar to Utah's MUSS, shown here from an '04 game.

UVSC hopes to create a student-fan section similar to Utah’s MUSS, shown here from an ’04 game.

Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News

OREM — Let's face it, the crowds at Utah Valley State sporting events has been sparse in the past several years. It hasn't been this way forever as UVSC once led the nation in junior college attendance before trying making the jump to NCAA Division I.

There is a new idea to help bring those fans back to cheer for the Green and Gold. The college hopes to emulate the passion the student sections at BYU and Utah have and bring that fervor to Orem by implementing an all-sports pass for students.

The pass, called the "Unknown Zone" for now, gives the student section an identity that has been lacking. For $20, students gain admission to all UVSC sporting events, a T-shirt, megaphone and a rally rag. There will also be pregame tailgate parties at all men's basketball games where food is included. Plus, instead of general admission seating at basketball games, a designated student section will be set up.

Previously, admission to UVSC sporting events was free to students. UVSC assistant athletic director Nate Mathis said that it undersold Wolverine sports. "It adds value to the events," Mathis said.

Mathis said that the "Unknown Zone" is also about strengthening school spirit on the commuter campus. "We needed to brand our student section," Mathis said. "Like Utah with the MUSS or BYU with Cougar United."

"They have an identity, name and a tradition," Mathis said about those school's success of having noteworthy student sections.

That is what Mathis hopes can start at UVSC, especially with university status and a name change to Utah Valley University looming next summer. "We really think this will be a great tradition for students," he said.

Student government president Kris Coles is aware that the lack of conference rivalries hurts attendance, but there is not a timetable of when the school would join one. "Us getting into a conference is no guarantee," Coles said.

Mathis said the "Unknown Zone" is not just some athletic department ploy to make extra money but is was a push by various student groups to bolster school spirit.

"It was the student groups, student government and the student alumni group that brought the suggestion up to charge students," Mathis said.

Coles added that student government wanted the program to be student-run instead of an ad hoc committee.

There have grumblings from some that the logic of charging students to go to sporting events will raise attendance is flawed, especially since students already support athletics through student fees. Other in-state schools use student fees that build in the price of student admission.

Coles understands that and said that "Unknown Zone" will help create a feeling that students are a part of the team. "It creates some sort of ownership that buying a season pass creates," he said.

Explaining why there needs to be a fee, Mathis said that other activities at UVSC have seen interest rise when there is a fee attached. "Their experience is when there was a charge (for activities), it was well attended," he said.

As of the first of this week, 269 passes had been sold, with a goal of 500 by the time men's basketball starts. Students who don't want to join the "Unknown Zone" can still go to any event by showing their student ID and paying $2.

But students who go to more than one or two events are advised to get the pass. "It more than pays for itself," Mathis said.