A new era for Penn State football fans has dawned. If the introduction of STEP didn't make that clear, the changes to the program since this past November certainly have.
One of those changes, the removal of Guido D'Elia as conductor of "The Greatest Show in College Football," will certainly impact the fan experience at Beaver Stadium beginning this fall. With that in mind, I propose a few changes that might enhance the game day environment in Happy Valley.
1. Find the right tune(s).
Many have pined to hear more of the Blue Band or to get rid of the "piped-in" music altogether, but I think the balance as it exists now works well enough. To me, the biggest issue lies in the execution, specifically in the music chosen. I firmly believe that the only appropriate time for songs like "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Sweet Caroline" comes after midnight and a few drinks at the bar of your choice. Seriously, both of these songs need to be axed from the game day play-list.
While I understand Penn State must cater to a wide range of ages with the music they choose while maintaining a family atmosphere, we need to lose the cliche and find our own Don't Stop Believin' (used by every team ever) or Sweet Caroline (stolen from the Red Sox). Or, if we're going to steal a widely-used song, we can at least add our own twist to it a la Zombie Nation.
I look to traditions such as LSU's "Callin' Baton Rouge" or the Baltimore Orioles' "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" as songs unique and special to each respective fan base. I'd love to see the next "conductor" think outside the box and do the same thing for Penn State.
2. Bring back the old Lion Roar.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the new one followed by the heartbeat noise. It's intense. However, I'd like to hear the old Lion Roar return too. Simple, classic, and a familiar connection to the past.
3. Aim to have the best non-student section, too.
This doesn't seem practical, but might have during the STEP realignment. What if Penn State decided to dedicate 5,000 seats to "supporters," who I would classify as non-students who want to act like students at the game?
Like many "supporter sections" for soccer matches, this group would remain standing and loud throughout the game. I have a feeling they could find a market for these seats between younger alumni and older diehards, and a few more thousand concentrated rowdies certainly wouldn't hurt the stadium atmosphere. Had this idea come to fruition before STEP, these seats could have fallen in the $100 donation category, making them easily accessible to both groups.
4. What's a tifo?
I know for a fact that Penn State football pursued this as a possible idea for 2011, but it came along too late in the summer. A tifo is essentially a large banner or flag, most of which cover several rows of fans (Google provides a few examples). Fans at soccer matches across the world pass or punch their team's tifo to, for lack of a better term, "bring it to life," which results in a very memorable image.
A giant white tifo boldly declaring something like "WELCOME TO THE WHITE HOUSE" would add a great visual to the Beaver Stadium student section, and I would have to think a sponsor (hello, Mr. Knight) would jump at the chance to have their name on it somewhere.
5. Silas Redd says "Tag me!"
Okay, so this one doesn't necessary involve the atmosphere per say, but to me it's a pretty important part of the fan experience in the year 2012. The fact that the A.D. claimed fans would have WiFi in 2011 certainly adds to that urgency as well.
From a marketing perspective (sorry, people, it's my major. But, if you like what I have to say, hire me!), adding WiFi can only help the Penn State football brand and, more specifically, help promote the game day experience at Beaver Stadium. WiFi makes it easier for fans to share their experience through their various social networks as the game happens, and such content can certainly increase FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) among fans not in attendance.
Okay, there we have it. What other improvements to the Beaver Stadium game day atmosphere would you like to see?
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