The temporary Idaho Fan Zone has ended its semester-long trial run, and university officials are pronouncing it an absolute success with plans to expand in the future.
The temporary canvas structure, erected at the beginning of the semester, was intended to be dismantled following the last football game of the year Sunday. But the structure was dismantled a week early after it sustained damage during a Nov. 17 windstorm. The total cost of renting the structure, erecting it and dismantling it was just under $500,000 in total.
Dan Ewart, vice president for Infrastructure, said in previous years events were held in various venues around campus. The university president, different colleges and other campus organizations all had separate tents and venues that were separate from game day events.
“The fan zone was an opportunity to bring all those folks together in a family-oriented environment and bring more people to the football games and just have a much better experience over all at the football games,” Ewart said. “And I think it more than succeeded in that.”
The purpose of the Idaho Fan Zone was to have a unified game day event center for all fans to attend events, Ewart said, something that would bring a number of different campus groups together under one roof.
Ewart said the fan zone included places to eat and drink, including a separate section serving beer and wine. The mini dome also included a place to buy Vandal Gear and had TVs to watch other sporting events. He said the fan zone also held live music, with the Vandal Marching Band and other bands performing before football games.
At each one of the different games, Ewart said the fan zone was co-sponsored by one of UI”s colleges. One week, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences held its annual Ag Days event in the fan zone, which included free giveaways and a display of tractors inside the structure. Later on, the College of Science hosted an event where children could participate in various science experiments in order to get young kids interested about careers in STEM fields.
“Those things were very, very well-received by those that came to the fan zone,” Ewart said.
Ewart said the university will not have the same structure next year, but it intends bring the concept of the fan zone back. He said UI is set to have a different event center for the fall 2016 season.
Ewart said they expect to have a finalized plan for the structure this spring. One plan under consideration set up a complex of various tents, similar to booths at a fair, he said.
This plan, Ewart said, would have separate tents for food, Vandal Gear and the colleges. He said the separate tents would all arranged next to each other on the same site as this year”s fan zone.
Ewart said a new basketball arena and event center is set to be built on the site next to the Kibbie Dome sometime in the coming years. The proposed new venue is still in the early planning stages, he said, but UI is now planning to incorporate a permanent fan zone into the future arena because of its success this year.
Ryan Locke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org