North Texas Daily

Apogee striving for ultimate fan experience

Apogee striving for ultimate fan experience

Apogee striving for ultimate fan experience
September 23
00:20 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

Before 2011, the Mean Green football team played all of its home games at Fouts Field, a stadium that once lost power to half of the venue because of a coffee pot.

“We played Baylor one night and right at halftime, all the lights went out on the east side,” athletic director Rick Villarreal said. “So we’ve got people running around, electricians and whatever, and they can’t figure it out. Finally, one guy says, ‘Who plugged in that coffee pot? You can’t plug in that coffee pot.’”

Fast forward to 2014, and the school is sporting one of the premier college football stadiums in the country with Apogee Stadium. But the construction of Apogee and the addition of many amenities, most recently including the sale of beer, is about more than just adapting to a changing collegiate landscape.

Villarreal is aiming to provide the ultimate fan experience for anyone who comes to a Mean Green football game, regardless of their affiliation with the university. The addition of beer sales is one of many steps the university is taking to successfully compete with other local sporting venues.

“We work in a market where you’ve got the Cowboys, you’ve got the Mavericks, you’ve got the Stars, you’ve got the Rough Riders,” Villarreal said. “So when you’re looking at how you’re going to spend your discretionary dollars, even going to a Rangers game, you can take your son and daughter, and you have a hot dog and beer while they have a Coke. Here, you can have that full entertainment experience.”

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Mean Green fans enjoy the beat down UNT gave to Nicholls State University on Saturday.

In addition to improving the available food and beverages, Villarreal also said the stadium now features an improved replay system, due to a Conference USA rule change that allows stadiums to show controversial replays.

“Now on a replay, if it’s a fumble, we’re going to show it on the board,” Villarreal said. “That way, fans aren’t thinking, ‘Somebody at home can see something I can’t see,’ because now they can see it here.’”

Although North Texas has already made many strides in adhering to fans’ demands, the university will continue making stadium additions. One plan currently on the table is increasing the stadium’s Wi-Fi capabilities due to modern-day fans’ constant use of smart phones.

While Villarreal continues to expand the university’s fan base through the addition of stadium features, he understands how important students are to maintaining an electric atmosphere. Head football coach Dan McCarney said  the environment at Apogee could hold its own against some of the bigger schools in even bigger conferences.

“I have a lot of places to compare it to. A lot of full stadiums, a lot of great places in the Big Ten and the Big 12, SEC and Big East,” McCarney said. “These fans and students have been unbelievable.”

University president Neal Smatresk was the lynchpin to advocating beer sales at Apogee Stadium. Smatresk said the students’ energy will ultimately improve interaction with the local community.

“The students are terrific,” Smatresk said. “There’s a lot of game day excitement. I want to see that grow and build and spread out into the community, because I think we need to bring the community into our campus more.”

Spreading the excitement of Mean Green football to the community of Denton and Dallas-Fort Worth goes hand-in-hand with what Villarreal is trying to accomplish.

Similar to Villareal, Smatresk wants North Texas football to be a can’t miss attraction.

“I want a ticket at Apogee to be hard to get,” Smatresk said.

The university is certainly on the right track to meeting Smatresk’s goals because of the football team, the higher profile of C-USA and the increasing number of stadium amenities.

“We have as great of sight lines as you can have. We have two big scoreboards, we’re increasing the amount of replays, and we’re increasing the focus on interactive stuff,” Villarreal said. “We’re talking about increasing the amount of Wi-Fi in here because a lot of people want additional stuff. And now, you can buy hot dogs, pretzels, Coca-Cola, all the way to a cold beer.” 

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Psychology senior Kathleen Butler, left, and mechanical engineering freshman William Storey fold UNT shirts during the game on Saturday.

Featured Image: Mean Green football fans gather in the concourse under the alumni section in search of food, beverages and UNT memorabilia. Photos by Ryan Vance – Staff Photographer

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