Big families like mine harbor a broad collection of university allegiances. We have alumni from the University of North Texas, Baylor University, University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, Eastern New Mexico University, Texas A&M University, University of Oklahoma, Vanderbilt University, University of Florida, Stanford University and numerous other alma maters. Suffice it to say, college football is a big deal at family gatherings.
My daughter and I are both UNT alumnae. My husband was degreed at ENMU. And our son is an Aggie starting his senior year next fall. Back in Tim’s and my college days, football was a fringe interest for a few rather than a majority. So we were unprepared for the vortex that swallowed our family whole when our son began his immersion into Texas A&M culture the summer before his freshman year. A&M football game days were at the heart of the giant sucking sound.
From our very first game-day experience, I felt tremendous envy for our convention and visitors bureau colleagues in College Station. The town is overrun with fans, less than half of whom actually hold tickets to the game. Every hotel room is full at insanely high rates. Restaurants are packed to the gills. The game is aired in bars where every seat is occupied. Game day is a weekend-long event and pumps millions of dollars into the Bryan-College Station economy.
So, why not in Denton? UNT is the 25th largest public university in the country and neck-and-neck with Texas Tech as the third largest in Texas. We have more than 36,000 students, 5,000 faculty and staff, plus some 130,000 alumni in the immediate Dallas-Fort Worth region. We have Apogee Stadium and coach Dan McCarney’s now-stellar football team. Home game attendance averages 21,000 since Apogee Stadium opened. But where is the rest of this multitude on game days?
Introducing Mean Green Game Day. The Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau is teaming up with UNT athletics and the Denton County Transportation Authority A-train to create a game-day experience that will engage students and alums like never before. We intend to put cheeks in seats and heads in beds all over Denton in the same way it works elsewhere. We are connecting downtown Denton, the Mean Green Tailgating Village and Apogee Stadium with complimentary transportation for a complete original-and-independent-game-day-in-Denton experience.
Among Denton residents, parking is perceived as a potential hazard. Not so anymore on game days. The Mean Green Game Day plan removes the parking dilemma completely, even for locals. Vast parking options are available up and down the A-train route, and parking is a non-issue from points south using the DART Green Line to connect to the A-train. Game-day goers board the train, arrive at the Brock Downtown Denton Transit Center and enjoy free DCTA shuttles that make two stops in downtown on the way to and from the UNT pedestrian bridge, no car necessary.
The momentum for Mean Green Game Day has been building for the past two years. Mean Green Sports and related website pages experienced greater than a 200 percent audience increase during 2013. Much of this growth was directly attributable to intentional marketing during UNT’s inaugural Conference USA football season. UNT’s exciting nine-win season in 2013, crowned with the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl win, is fresh in fans’ minds. Mean Green Game Day is primed for explosive growth in 2014.
Businesses throughout downtown are clamoring to become 2014 Game Day Champions, partners in one of the most aggressive campaigns in Denton’s history. The CVB, UNT and DCTA are anchoring the campaign that will launch in July and run throughout the Mean Green’s 2014 season under the direction of local firm Swash Labs.
Owner Josh Berthume’s campaign design will reach 1.5 million fans, friends of fans and alumni in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro region alone. No doubt he can do it. Swash Labs has been driving the rising game-day momentum I just described all along. With the partners and champions backing this mammoth 2014 campaign, Mean Green Game Day will, in time, become a series of must-attend major events that impact the entire city year after year.
Mean Green Game Day is not just an immediate, 2014-season-only vision. Reintroducing Denton to thousands of alumni who have no idea how Denton has evolved will ignite a storm of social sharing and word-of-mouth testimony that encourages an emotionally charged reconnect between them and their alma mater. Denton will be a must-visit destination again and again. The university and Denton will reap unprecedented economic benefit, making Denton green in more ways than one.
KIM PHILLIPS is vice president of the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau at the Denton Chamber of Commerce. She loves promoting Denton’s original, independent spirit through the city’s sense of place and cast of many characters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.