Damian Lillard announces April 2 he will enter the NBA Draft at a press conference.

Members of the planning committee for the Damian Lillard Day celebration, which will take place this Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at The Junction in downtown Ogden, finalized plans and logistics for the event last Tuesday.

Ogden City planners, Weber State University Student Association representatives, members of WSU Athletics and a representative from Megaplex Theaters met together to finalize the budget, schedule, marketing plans and all other aspects of the event.

The main concern the group kept circling back to was whether or not they could fund the $7,000, 18-foot-by-14-foot screen that would ideally stream the NBA Draft live and be the life of the party. At the meeting, Ron Goch, director of promotions and marketing for WSU Athletics, suggested a system of five 42-inch screens that would each show the draft and create a similar setup to what other Utah universities use for tailgating parties.

“When we got away from the screen, as minimal as that may sound to someone else, for me it was huge, because that is the whole life of the party outside, the whole reason we chose to do it down in The Junction — to get notoriety for Ogden,” said Andrew Gardiner, WSU student body president, later in an interview.

Brady Harris, WSU legislative vice president, told Gardiner at the meeting that they could give $1,500 from the WSUSA annual budget toward the screen instead of a previously decided $1,000. Representatives of Ogden City had already donated $2,000 toward the screen during a walk-through at The Junction, as well as $500 for the DJ, according to Gardiner.

During the meeting, Jerry Bovee, director of WSU Athletics, said he could shift some budgets around and appeal to the Student Fee Committee to pitch in for the screen. Just then, Ray Kimber, a longtime benefactor to WSU and owner of Kimber Kable in Salt Lake City, entered the meeting.

Kimber asked Bovee how much money was still needed to get the screen. Bovee told him $4,000, and Kimber said he could cover half.

“I won’t want to move on without saying that what just happened, I see it over and over and over again in this community,” said Danette Pulley from Ogden City Marketing, in response to Kimber’s offer, “and what makes us so unique and able to get stuff done is people like you and in the community and Weber State steps up and continually makes it a collaborative effort where if we all give a little, all things are possible, so thank you.”

With funding for the screen finalized, the members of the planning committee went on to finalize the rest of the details.

Gardiner said he and Harris met with the mayor of Ogden City, Mike Caldwell, a few months ago and ended up pitching the idea of this celebration to him.

“I just brushed it by him and he said, ‘Awesome, I’ll put together a planning committee,’” Gardiner said. “From there, we’ve collaborated, and we’ve been unstoppable since.”

Caldwell said he was excited about the idea as soon as he heard it, and so was the Ogden City Council when he told them. They decided to create a proclamation that June 28 would be Damian Lillard Day in Ogden. The proclamation was signed and adopted last Tuesday at the city council meeting.

“In my experience with Weber, we’ve never had someone come out of the draft as experienced and high quality as Damian, and he represents Weber so well it’s worth celebrating,” Caldwell said. “He’s been recognized as the best point guard in the draft this year, and any time you have someone who goes that high, that’s something to absolutely celebrate. He’s got a great work ethic and stands for so much of what we like to be known for in Ogden.”

Bill Cook, executive director of the city council, said events like this help shape the vision city officials have for Ogden City.

“Each of these events helps us move toward that very positive feel for anyone who hears the name Ogden or Weber State,” Cook said.

He said Lillard’s likely position in the draft is an incredible opportunity for Ogden City and WSU, and it will hopefully lead to more first-round draft picks.

Gardiner, Caldwell and Cook each said the national attention Lillard is attracting will work wonders for Ogden City and WSU.

“I wanted to send Damian off with a bunch of Weber love and Ogden love, and I wanted to highlight him to the city and tell people, ‘Come see our games,’ because a lot of people are going to come to this and be like, ‘Oh, honey, we could have come and seen him play,’” Gardiner said.

Caldwell said he’d love to see this result in sold-out basketball games at the Dee Events Center next season and to have the community embrace WSU Athletics as its own.

“It’s OK to be a Ute or a Cougar fan and live here, but we want you to be a Wildcat fan regardless,” Cook said.

Apart from the self-power-generating jumbo screen, the event will include a presentation of the Damian Lillard Day proclamation from Caldwell to Gardiner and WSU President Ann Millner, performances from the WSU cheer squad and possibly the marching band, vendors at tables throughout The Junction, wristbands that give attendees Damian Deals at certain restaurants, $1 shirts for sale courtesy of WSU Athletics, foam paws and streamers also donated by Kimber, a photo booth where a video for Lillard will be shot, memorabilia signed by Lillard, and a VIP area.

According to Gardiner, more than 400,000 people throughout Weber County and surrounding areas have been invited via mail, social media and other marketing avenues.

“From all the prestige, they deserve to have it,” Kimber said. “From a recruitment standpoint, it’s just good, period. How we represent this event also means we’re essentially honored that Damian made the right choice to come here and go to school, the right thing to do for the right reasons.”

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