Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan is lending his political voice and celebrity to drum up support for the University of Akron football team.
With UA’s home opener a few days away, the mayor joined with UA Athletic Director Larry Williams and coach Terry Bowden on Tuesday to urge alumni, students and local residents to attend games.
“Nobody builds a stronger community by themselves,” Horrigan said. “Greater partnerships help. This is our homegrown university. This is the one that sits right downtown and we encourage people to visit the campus.”
It’s the first time that local leaders can recall the city helping to kick off the season.
UA has had trouble attracting football fans.
The school had the worst reported paid attendance among all 125 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in 2014, and only 32,280 showed up for six home games last season.
InfoCision Stadium, a facility that cost $65 million to build, holds about 30,000.
The university hopes that fans will be energized by last season’s 8-5 winning record and first-ever bowl victory at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
“I want Akron football to be part of this community and part of this university and part of the excitement of living here. ... It can be so important and valuable to a community,” Bowden said.
As part of the city’s efforts, it allowed UA to insert promotional fliers in Akron utility bills at no cost.
The fliers offer general admission football tickets for $10 — that’s $5 off — and a ticket to a men’s soccer game with each football ticket purchased.
Horrigan said the support will extend to other UA sports, as well.
To combat the football malaise, UA is planning to kick off its home opener Saturday with a bang against Virginia Military Institute.
The free Touchdown Music Fest is set for 1 to 6 p.m. at the Lee R. Jackson Track & Field Complex outside the stadium. It will feature the Grammy Award-winning Soul Asylum, The Bizarros, Shooter Sharp & The Shootouts, and JD Eicher.
UA partnered with radio station 91.3 FM on the concert.
Meanwhile, an expanded ZipsFest will run from 1 to 6:15 p.m. at the Stile Athletics Field House. The event, presented by Summa Health System, will include some players running drills with children and inflatables.
UA also will give away free T-shirts for the first 5,000 fans at the game and there will be post-game fireworks.
The game begins at 6:30 p.m.
Williams said the school is trying to increase programming on game days to appeal to a broader base of people.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.