Faculty, Staff, and Student Appreciation Night Attracts All With Free Admission
By Maria Vicente, Sports Editor
They lost. They won. It was a great game. The women’s and men’s basketball games took place Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. The event was stamped, “Faculty, Staff and Student Appreciation Night,” at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. News of the event has long since gone, but it may not have included details about where the idea came from.
In the 1980s, Hilo was a small town and a real ‘Basketball Town.’ The Afook-Chinen auditorium would have been overflowing, holding nearly a thousand spectators; more than capacity. Eventually, the location housed events to appreciate Veterans and the County of Hawaii with free admission. They then decided to adapt, involving the campus communities. Now, appreciation night includes free admission to the faculty, staff and students of both the UH Hilo and HawCC communities. The idea occurred when UH Hilo began to outgrow its facilities. The team’s were in need of a facility that could really showcase a premium event.
Joseph Estrella, Jr., Interim Director of Athletics, explains, “At first it was only going to be faculty and staff of the University, then we said, ‘Wait, we’re a system we work together we need to include Hawaii Community College,’ then we realized we were missing the most important part; our students.” He states that students are the most important, whether they’re in athletics or not. Then, it seems that faculty are often most under appreciated. Speaking of the project entirely, Estrella says, “This was a long time coming. I’m excited that we’re trying to engage our faculty and staff and to just say, mahalo.” Eventually he hopes to get students more involved in the athletic program.
The Vulcans played Chaminade University, an inter-island nemesis of sorts. The women’s team very narrowly lost scoring 56 points against Chaminade’s 58. The men’s team experienced three consecutive wins after beating Chaminade, 88 to 85 in a neck and neck game. The excitement of the sport was magnified by the crowd in attendance.
Ticketers at the game were happy to see such a large crowd. Some said that the turnout was better than ever before. Around 5:30 p.m. the stadium housed an exceptional number of people. Many of which included regular Vulcan supporters from the community. Free admission enticed a mass of students, but attendance didn’t hit its peak until the men’s team took to the court. A game bus was even designated to shuttle students to the stadium from campus, but Estrella was surprised to see that a week before the game, hardly anyone had signed up. Still, the game was alive with dedicated players and fervent supporters. The players flew up and down the court in a frenzy of coordination and determination. It was intense to say the least.
Half-time activities and giveaways gave audience members the chance to practice their own ‘B-Ball’ skills. Participants able to make a free throw were given athletic backpacks or vouchers for the next game. Then, Estrella took the microphone. He called a variety of different faculty and staff members to the court. The celebrated were given leis and introduced to the audience before Estrella presented them with a warm thank-you and Vulcan t-shirts.
If it were up to the students, attending all university athletic events would be free. If it were up to Estrella, it would be too. “We’d like to make it free for them [students] all the time, but we just don’t have the finances, the wherewithal to do all that,” he says. Students behind the ticket counter posed an interesting idea. What if instead of charging students discounted prices, the University charged a fee at the beginning of the semester? A reasonable fee, be it optional or standard, could be a great way to entice students to show Vulcan pride.
If you missed the Faculty, Staff and Student Appreciation night, not to worry. These events will happen again. Also, when attending athletic events, students with a valid ID wearing Vulcan gear will receive an additional discount on game day. For some students, sporting events aren’t a choice form of entertainment. For other students, the price of attendance seems to be a bit of a deterrent. But, for those students who’ve never experienced game day, it may prove to be well worth it.