This year, Ogden City officials and Weber State University administrators will partner to discuss how to make Ogden a college town.
Bill Cook, executive director of the Ogden City council, said within the next month or two, he and Mark Johnson of the Ogden mayor’s office will meet with WSU President Ann Millner to discuss forming a planning committee that will decide a strategy.
“We’re doing a lot of research right now about what it means to be a college town, who decides and what do we need to do to become one,” Cook said. “We keep asking people, ‘Are we a college town?’ and there’s lots of different opinions.”
Ogden City Mayor Mike Caldwell said the strategy will not focus on the nightlife and partying that accompany traditional connotations of the term “college town.”
“Weber is situated right at the base of those mountains, hikes, Snowbasin, and there are some colleges that have done a great job of getting their students outside,” Caldwell said. “I hope Ogden as a college town can promote the idea that having an active lifestyle can lead to a more well-rounded education and individual. The college town initiative is to have some good energy downtown and more recreational opportunities downtown, not just bars flooding downtown.”
Caldwell and Cook both discussed the difficulty of getting Ogden locals to WSU sporting events because even this far north, everyone seems to be sporting red or blue.
“If you mix red and blue, you get purple,” Cook said. “So it’s OK to be a Ute or a Cougar fan and live here, but we want you to be a Wildcat fan too, regardless.”
Caldwell said he would like to see people made more aware of how competitive WSU’s athletics programs are.
“A lot of people in our community still don’t know about home games and didn’t know about Damian, and it’s a shame the Dee wasn’t full every home game,” Caldwell said. “We want to see Weber flags hanging off porches and stickers on the car right next to that red or blue.”
Millner said part of getting the Ogden community more involved in WSU sports is to work to create a game-day experience.
“Maybe it’s different than just tailgating, like tailgating downtown as well as tailgating around the campus,” Millner said. “There’s other activities before and after games that make it a game, but also a whole experience.”
Millner said although outdoor recreation and sporting events play a large role in the university’s identity, there’s also much more to WSU.
“There’s also cultural activities and lectures, and I think about the Convocations we have and all the engagement in the community, and those things are also the life of the university,” Millner said.
Millner, Cook and Caldwell all said that in order for Ogden to become a college town, it has to get the students involved downtown.
“We’ve had our campus and our downtown as separate islands, and we want to break that down,” Caldwell said.
Millner said this past year, Madonne Miner, dean of the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities, told her that many students, faculty and staff were participating in the Ogden Marathon. Miner suggested raising the profile of the WSU presence at the marathon by making sure everyone participating from WSU had a WSU shirt.
“It’s a way of demonstrating to everyone that Weber State’s involved in a very visual way, versus lots of just individual activity and involvement,” Millner said. “It really says the university is actively engaged.”
Millner said she hopes to see even more WSU banners and flyers downtown.
“I can imagine we have something kind of highlighting sporting events and activities in downtown Ogden in every window of every retail and restaurant operation in downtown Ogden,” Millner said.
Millner said one difficulty in making Ogden a college town is the large portion of nontraditional students at WSU.
“We want to create an inclusive environment for everybody, one where our traditional students have the experience of interacting and getting involved and the game-day experience of being with each other,” Millner said. “At the same time, though, being able to create an opportunity for our more nontraditional students, who are actually fairly young but may have families, to have the opportunity as well to make it a family as well as a college experience. They’re not mutually exclusive. We can accomplish both.”