OPINION: Fresno State football games are unwelcoming to new fans

This year’s football season was presented as “the season we would win it all.” I didn’t know how football worked until last month, but even I knew I wanted to be there to witness something special. 

Despite being a junior at Fresno State, I had never attended a football game on campus. I decided that this year I’d change that. I wanted to experience the hype of seeing my school win and the rage of the crowd cheering on the ‘Dogs while I’m having fun watching a game with friends.

When the opportunity came, I secured my ticket to go to the Cal Poly game on Sept. 1, eager to lose my voice and turn off my brain.

What was supposed to be an exciting new experience turned out to be the most frustrating ordeal I had ever experienced in my time at Fresno State.

Parking was the first problem. I received multiple conflicting answers regarding whether students were allowed to park on campus during games. When I approached the P5 lot, I was told by traffic officers that no one was to park there. After a loop around campus and back to P5, a Fresno State police officer told me the opposite and let me park there.

Entering Valley Children’s Stadium was another issue. As a newcomer, I had no idea how many entrances the stadium had, let alone where I should be entering. Despite being a student myself, I had to ask a stranger for help attending my school’s football game.

Once I found the entrance I found a map of the stadium, but it was inverted and pointed me to the opposite end when I looked for the student section. 

The game hadn’t even started, but the walk from my car to the stadium and the ensuing search for my seat left me tired and thirsty. It didn’t help that on Sept. 1 the weather peaked at 105 degrees. The high temperatures made the overall experience uncomfortable, and there were concerns from fans about how the stadium would tackle the problem. 

When I went to a concession stand, I was shocked to see that a single water bottle was $5. I bought two water bottles and two Gatorades to share with a friend, costing me $22 in total. I was glad I had eaten before the game so I didn’t have to spend over $50 for food, too.

Though the trek to the stadium made me miss most of the first quarter, the game itself was fun to watch. I enjoyed sharing moments of pride and despair with the Red Wave, even if I wasn’t sure what each play meant.

For the Oregon State game on Sept. 10, I had the privilege of receiving a press pass to take photos during the game for The Collegian. Having my coworkers there to guide me made it a completely different experience from the Cal Poly game. While I worked, someone took the time to explain the different plays and the niche details of football to me, which helped even more.

I went to the San Jose State game on Oct. 15 as a fan again. Equipped with my recent knowledge of the game and the stadium, the journey to the stadium was a breeze. Knowing the layout was the key difference between an exhausting experience and an enjoyable one, though I was still reluctant to pay for the overpriced food and drinks.

But ultimately, Fresno State football games are still hard to navigate. In my experience, the lack of information for newcomers only leads to frustration. Another student or fan like me, unfamiliar with football and trying to break out of their comfort zone, couldn’t be faulted for being turned away by the multitude of inconveniences and lack of information provided by the university.

What Fresno State needs is to provide students and fans with clearer information that details where they’re allowed to park, where entrances are located, how to find their seats and a list of their food and drink prices. Sure, a website ostensibly exists to provide this information, however, it’s disorganized and doesn’t include specific student parking details or a map of all the entrances. 

Moreover, as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, the university must develop plans to more adequately serve fans dealing with the weather. Paying $5 for a single water bottle in 100+ degree weather is ridiculous. The combination of intense heat and excessive costs could lead to a fan’s injury or even death, and even players are at risk of experiencing heat exhaustion if games aren’t pushed back or other solutions aren’t developed in the face of the heat. 

Two cooling stations are available to provide free water, but their location isn’t stated on the Bulldog website, meaning that you’d have to walk up the stadium to find it, adding to the exhaustion a person would experience. Fans are also allowed to ask for free water at concession stands, but long wait times only serve to make fans experience the heat for longer amounts of time.

Football games are supposed to be fun, casual events that should be accessible to everyone. As much as I have enjoyed attending them, the experience I had during the Cal Poly game is surely not exclusive to myself. The university needs to make information about attending games more accessible to fans and come up with plans to make the experience safer and more enjoyable for other students like myself. Misleading information and high concession prices not only make the experience much more annoying, but they discourage new fans from wanting to come back to future games. 

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