Austin Hill

Attendance was low for the UT women’s softball game Wednesday evening. Leah Vann, economic sophomore and secretary for Students for Texas Athletics, noted that the ball fields are hard to access because they are across the highway.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

In recent years, some students have complained about a perceived decline in school spirit for UT sports.

“The motto is ‘Come early. Be loud. Stay late,’” said Leah Vann, economics sophomore and secretary for Students for Texas Athletics (STA). “Where is the spirit?”

Vann said when she came to UT as a freshman in fall 2013, the fan turnout for football games disappointed her.

“I finally get to come to a college football game, and I am the only one shouting at the ref,” Vann said.

A potential cause of the issue could be related to promotion, according to Teri Pierce, associate athletics director for engagement services.

“On a campus this big, it’s hard to get the word out,” Pierce said.

Mechanical engineering senior Austin Hill said it’s hard to get motivated to attend sports such as golf and rowing when the venues are so far away for students. He said he feels cross-promoting the more popular sports with the less popular sports would increase student turnout.

“I think being good generates hype,” Hill said. “Everything seems to rise and fall with the hype of our football team.”

Vann said STA has plans to try and motivate students to come out for more UT sports games.

“We are going to create the biggest tailgate in the country,” Vann said. “It would be so convenient if we could just tailgate on campus.”

Vann said STA plans to provide a student-tailgating area on campus. STA also plans to establish a bus route from West Campus to the baseball field for students to take to UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“It’s hard to walk to. It’s across [I-35]. It’s just a pain,” Vann said.

The first route is supposed to be available for the weekend of the three-game baseball series against Texas Tech starting May 1, Vann said.

STA is working to make student IDs the only necessity to get into games, if students have purchased the Big Ticket, the all-sport ticket package for students and staff, Vann said.

“We are working with a consultant who is working with our fan experience,” Pierce said.  “If there is a ticketed event, we’re going to try and make it a great experience for the fans.”

Because of Dell Medical School construction, the University removed hundreds of “C” parking spots in lots near the Frank Erwin Center and School of Social Work, causing frustration among some commuting students as they returned to campus for the spring semester.

According to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey, Lot 108, south of the Erwin Center, lost approximately 290 spots at the end of the fall semester. All of Lot 80, near the social work building, is being used to construct a chilling station for the Dell Medical School complex, Posey said.

“About 200 spaces will be returned to this lot at the completion of the project,” Posey said. “The parking needs when these spaces return will dictate the designation for these spaces, but I am certain that student parking will be a part of the mix.”

Austin Hill, mechanical engineering senior, said students who commute to campus often have difficulty finding a place to park.

“Today, I drove around for almost 10 minutes in circles waiting for a spot to open up — along with about five other cars,” Hill said. “And, sometimes when you find a spot, it’s a carpool spot, which I didn’t know was a thing until I got a ticket for it last Thursday.”

Hill said he used to park in Lot 80, but, because of the closure, he now tries to park mainly in Lot 70, just north of the closed-off area. Hill said he does not park in the lots east of I-35 because of how far they are from his classes. If he can’t find an open spot, Hill said he just pays to park on the streets around campus.

Dennis Delaney, operations manager for Parking and Transportation Services, said there are a sufficient number of empty parking spaces east of I-35.

“Before Lot E was closed on any given day, we had anywhere from 200 to 300 empty spaces on the other side of I-35,” Delaney said. “We’re still finding those locations empty — not as many as before, but there are still empty spaces that can accommodate people with a ‘C’ permit.”

Delaney said the parking services department has sold 2,264 “C” permits and 1,635 “C+” permits over the course of this academic year.

“Basically, we sell as the demand is there, so, if people are asking for them, we’ll sell them,” Delaney said.

English senior Heather French said she does not regret purchasing her “C+” permit, but she is still frustrated with her
parking situation.

“The PTS site makes it sound like parking across 35 is an easy option, when, in reality, the bus system is so unreliable that one has to plan a ton of time for taking the bus, which is not a viable alternative,” French said. 

The University is building a new parking garage near the site of the new medical school in order to make up for lost spaces, Posey said.

“The garage will have 100-plus spaces, and it will serve the medical school district, including students,” Posey said. “The overall net gain for parking spaces on campus because of the Dell Medical School will be about 600-plus spaces.”

Delaney said the new parking spaces at the medical school garage will be accessible to all students.

“At the medical school, the only people who are probably going to want to park over there are the nursing school students and medical school students, so the demand that’s there from them is what’s going to drive how popular that garage is,” Delaney said.