Weber kicked off its first-ever “Weber Town” tradition this last weekend, in hopes of fueling the goal between the city of Ogden and the university to make Ogden a college town. However, a free concert and a “one-night excuse” to sport Weber wear isn’t going to be the driving force between a college town transformation for our fine city. It’s harder with a school like Weber, because even though we have plenty of perfectly notable programs and amazing tuition rates, we attract a higher demographic of nontraditional students and therefore maintain a different lifestyle compared to more traditionally populate universities. These are just a few points of mine that I think may be worth glancing at if anyone were looking for ways to sell the Ogden lifestyle that I’m sure many have the potential to fall in love with.
Elevate 25th Street as the playground for Weber State students: You want a town to have that “college” vibe? You’ve got to pick a central hub of action and convince the student body that it’s worth the trip to trek down there every so often. Historic 25th Street is the perfect place to start — not just because it has the FrontRunner station and The Junction, but also because the entire aura downtown just seems to shriek a unique, vintage vibe that a lot of college students can crave. However, the entire vibe of Weber-Centric Town needs to start with the small businesses making things a bit more “Wildcat-friendly,” per se. Look at towns surrounding USU and the U of U. They have everything from apparel to sandwich shops, dedicated specifically with their featured university in mind. What does it say about Ogden when our Walmarts are filled to the brim with BYU and U of U gear, but not one Waldo is to be found? The community needs to collectively publicize its support and involvement of us, and a few Wildcat banners floating on the lampposts of 25th Street are just not going to cut it.
Publicize Wildcat incentives: A simple way to start may be for small businesses around downtown Ogden to offer unique discount privileges to Wildcats who show their ID. They might just be insignificantly small things (a free drink, X percent off entire purchase, etc.), but tiny things add up, and college students can be notorious for appreciating any dime they get to save. If you have discounts, you need to publicize them. I fantasized something as simple as Weber State giving local businesses some kind of Weber-centric decal to stick right in their windows. It could be the significant Waldo the Wildcat head, with a message that reads “Wildcats welcome.” That way, any student wandering down that part of town is going to stop in and inquire what kind of “amazing” discount they are going to receive for being one of Weber’s own. It gets potential customers into the local businesses, and it creates a big universal flag for our university-goers that Ogden is saying, “Yes! This IS our town. Let us help you reap the benefits.”
Improve public transportation: This is more of a direct call to the city, and obviously is the farthest thing from a short-term goal, but I think it’s a good idea to keep in mind that the best way to improve traffic to your newfound central hub is to make it as cheap and easy to travel down there as possible. Having a Trax system in place around Ogden, like Salt Lake City has, would do wonders for the buzz around the town. No one would have an excuse as to why they didn’t want to drive downtown, and let’s not forget that green energy push the university has been harping about recently. Support for a push in public transportation would nestle nicely into that category.
Support and expand Greek Life: This suggestion is tinged with a bit of my own bias, but I believe it is a reasonable response to Weber State’s plea to its student body to show more pride and worth in their college experience. We don’t “just go to Weber State.” We’re not just a commuter school. We bleed purple! We’re Wildcats! We’re a significant university with great programs and outlets! Well, you know what else significant universities are known for having? An active avenue of thriving fraternity and sorority systems. Even to those who only know about them through movies and TV, the symbolism of a Greek row filled with proudly lettered sorority and fraternity houses can be a common symbol of any atypical American college experience. Weber used to have a thriving Greek Life about a decade ago, but for some reason, it’s dwindled down to just a handful of organizations that are roped in with any other standard club in WSUSA. Encouraging students to join or form their own fraternal organizations is an opportunity that makes a huge difference when it comes to how the student may view the fraternity. Instead of a place where they’re going to waste a few years chasing their generals before transferring, it can be a place where they became involved in student life from joining a unique organization that provided a support system filled with others who may have shared their unique goals.
Strike while the Weber Town iron is hot: If Weber acts on nothing else, I believe the biggest opportunity would be to expand the potential for Weber Town. I personally would like to see it become some kind of semesterly event, and of course they don’t have to bust out all the stops with expensive bands and what not, but it would be a great idea to create different events tailored to spotlight the different sports teams, student organizations or even seasons going on that semester and turn Weber Town into a series! I might just be thinking too big for my purple britches at the moment, but the beginning stages of a new movement is the ultimate time to brainstorm and dream big. Filter things out and cut them down later.
The goal is to just get everyone excited for opportunities to start shedding their purple blood all over the Ogden pavement and let Utah know we are proud to prowl our territory!