Washington athletics hosted a brand-new event last night for season-ticket holders called "Dawgs Under the Stars". A free, family-friendly event for football season ticket holders, it represents a continuing effort by the athletic department to broaden their marketing efforts and find creative ways to build the next generation of Husky fans.
The event allowed fans to camp out on the field in Husky Stadium and watch a screening of the 1994 movie "Little Giants", a kid-friendly football film about misfits coming together to find success, starring Ed O'Neil and Rick Moranis, and then get treated to a pancake breakfast in the morning.
Parking was limited to E1, so you either had to haul your gear from there or (if you had multiple adults on hand to watch your stuff) drop off your gear next to the stadium and then park. Gates opened at 7PM, and lines were a bit slow as all of the gear folks were bringing in (backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, coolers, etc) was inspected. Once inside the stadium there were areas roped off for those just using lawn chairs or blankets to watch the movie, and a large section exclusively for tents for those who wanted to spend the night. Staff on hand passed out small pieces of cardboard to put under tent poles to help protect the field turf (there was a concerted effort to ensure limited impact to the field).
The concession area in the back of the Touchdown Terrace (east end zone) was open with limited food options, and they had a bouncy house and some blocking sleds, tackling dummies and other practice gear for kids to play with. Many contented themselves with tossing around a football and/or running on the field, and it was clear that being able to run around the field and into the end zones was a thrill for many.
The movie started at 8:15, and while the sound wasn't the greatest (volume was a little low and there was some echo) it was good enough that you could follow along with what was happening on the screen. It was lights-out at 11PM, and most folks had settled down by that point. For one of the few times in months it was a bit rainy and windy, so those that hadn't brought a tent (or those with tents that weren't particularly rain-proofed) packed up and headed out. Those that stuck around were treated to a buffet breakfast of pancakes and coffee, juice or water inside the Touchdown Terrace starting at 7AM with seating outside. Then it was time to pack up and head home (they asked folks to exit by 9AM).
While more food options from the concession stand would have been preferable and perhaps a surprise appearance by players (or former players) and/or coaching staff would have really made this event stand out, it was still a fun time and a creative way to engage with young Husky fans. My 5-year old son enjoyed himself and will want to go again next year if they do this again. The staff was friendly and helpful and they are very interested in feedback from the folks that were able to attend, so if you were there too, please make sure to pass along what you liked and what you think could make it even better in the future.
Kudos to the athletic department for coming up with this and trying new ways to engage with fans.