Gator Growl crawling over to cozy Flavet Field


Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:14 p.m.

After disappointing ticket sales and a lack of enthusiasm among students and alumni in recent years, Gator Growl is moving to Flavet Field this year — marking the first time in 82 years that the world’s largest student-run pep rally will not be held at The Swamp.

In an effort to recapture the excitement and revitalize student interest, the producers of Gator Growl this year are seeking their opinions on the events and entertainment they want to see.

“The reality is it’s a student-run show put on for the students by the students,” said Devin McDaniel, executive producer for the 2014 Gator Growl and a third-year marketing major. “We want to bring it back to those roots.”

The theme for this year is “Limitless.”

Gator Growl grew out of a bonfire and pep rally that replaced Dad’s Day in 1924. In 1932, it became Gator Growl with the addition of comedy skits. These days it still has the skits, as well as cheerleaders, Dazzlers and the marching band.

With headline comedy acts like George Burns, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, Gator Growl filled the stadium each year.

But over 11 years, ticket sales plummeted from 75,000 in 1998 to less than half that in 2009 when producers started tinkering with the entertainment lineup. It dropped to 22,000 in 2010 when there was no musical act, and continued to hover around 21,000-22,000, despite efforts to appeal to broader audiences by booking acts as diverse as comedian Tracy Morgan with country singer Josh Turner.

Only 15,000 tickets sold for last year’s show, when producers dropped a comedian and featured the musical acts The Fray and the local group Sister Hazel. The audience was swallowed up in the 90,000-seat Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Moving to the smaller Flavet Field will make the show more interactive and intimate, McDaniel said. Flavet has a capacity of 21,000, which gives organizers “an opportunity to grow,” she said. The smaller venue also will give more flexibility to set up more than one stage, and allow the entertainers and audience members to feed off of each others’ energy, she said.

Homecoming Chairman Evan Schauder, a senior in accounting, said talent hasn’t been chosen for this year’s Growl. Instead, organizers have been brainstorming with representatives of other student organizations to put together a list of potential entertainment acts that students would be excited to see.

They plan to poll students using social media like its Facebook page and Twitter account to see which acts would draw the biggest crowds, Schauder said.

Whether a comedy act is booked again depends on students, he said, and students have mixed feelings about comedians.

“Most people our age think concert when asked what do you want,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel, who was an assistant producer for last year’s Gator Growl, said she hopes that by making these changes they can return Gator Growl to its former glory, when it was a must-see event for both students and alumni.

“For me,” she said, “that’s what I want — for all the students to take this experience with them, to want to share it with their kids some day.”

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