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Without Fans, Penn State Student Sections Navigating Uncharted Territory

It’s no secret that Penn State’s sporting events will look different this fall without fans cheering on the Nittany Lions.

With the uncertainty of whether or not fans will be allowed into sporting events, most will find themselves watching from the couch. This puts organizations like Nittanyville and the Roar Zone in a tough spot as they look for ways to keep members engaged.

Nittanyville, the tent city in front of Gate A before every home football game, depends on football. Not being able to cheer on the Nittany Lions already hurts the organization, but leaders say it’s difficult to attract new members if students can’t camp out.

“We discussed using QR codes to our GroupMe chat and posting them on boards, especially around East Halls for freshmen who have not been a part of our organization yet,” Nittanyville President Patrick Bodnar said. “We ended up having 30 people sign up through a few tweets. The interest has been there, it’s just a matter of connecting with people.”

The Roar Zone, Penn State Hockey’s Student Section, is facing the same issue.

“We are trying to keep our current members as active as possible,” Roar Zone Vice President Taylor Somers said. “But it’s hard to get the freshmen because they know about us, and they know about who we are, but we haven’t gotten much of an opportunity to bring them in.”

Even after being able to put the organization name out there, both clubs rely on being able to attend sporting events to engage with members. With no fans being permitted, Nittanyville and the Roar Zone are forced to get creative with how to make a virtual presence in Beaver Stadium and Pegula Ice Arena.

“Right now we’re in early planning for a virtual banner-making contest,” Bodnar said. “We are trying to look into possibly getting our banners up for the games on Saturdays in Beaver Stadium even though we won’t be there.”

Similarly, the Roar Zone is planning ahead for Penn State men’s hockey’s next season.

“We talked about putting videos together to play in Pegula for the guys,” Somers said. “Now that ‘no fans’ is looking more like a reality, we’re going to start really putting our nose to the ground for it.”

Even though students won’t be watching from their usual seats in the front rows of the student sections, the organizations are still searching for ways to watch games as a group — no easy task given current social distancing regulations.

Just like the other organizations at Penn State, Nittanyville and the Roar Zone are limited to a nearly all-virtual platform.

“We’re looking into doing a few virtual watch parties,” Bodnar said. “We’re just trying to figure out how we want to do it, whether we are all together in a room with masks, or we’re just in front of our computers and watching it together.”

The Roar Zone also has plans to do some virtual activities, such as watching the games together online.

“Our members like to do live things together, with someone sharing their screens and watching the games together,” Somers said. “A lot of our members also like to play NHL, so we have been putting on those types of tournaments.”

Penn State football will open its football season on the road against Indiana on Saturday, October 24. The Big Ten’s hockey season, meanwhile, will begin as soon as November 13.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected]

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