Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon’s Public Relations and Rules and Regulations directors expected to test a new overflow space for the first time late Saturday night into Sunday morning, once the Bryce Jordan Center approached capacity.
“We really have no idea,” said Dana Giacobello, Thon’s PR director, earlier Saturday. “It’s going to be a decision made in conjunction with BJC staff and Thon.”
This is the first year Thon is providing an official space for overflow spectators. According to Janine Patton, Rules and Regulations director, the Pegula Ice Arena will serve as an auxiliary waiting area for spectators when the Jordan Center is at capacity. A live feed of Thon festivities will be shown in the arena.
“The idea is to use it as a location where people are close, they can still see Thon and feel like they’re a part of it,” said Patton.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants to be at Thon for very similar reasons, so why not try to put them somewhere together?” Patton said. “Thon has had overflow locations like the HUB, but nothing ever structured or set in stone that we could advertise to people.”
The waiting area will be used in partnership with a new digital line management system that will alert spectators when they are permitted to enter the Jordan Center. The system was implemented in response to criticism in 2013 about line management.
Last year, while the Jordan Center was at capacity, spectators stood in standstill lines waiting to enter the building in temperatures that sunk to single digits. Several were treated for symptoms of hypothermia.
“I think people are really happy that we addressed a challenge from last year head on and that we’re really trying to implement a solution that’s fair, convenient and safe,” Giacobello said.
Patton said the executive committee began discussing ideas for a possible overflow location in the summer. Patton said that working with Al Karosas, who is both the associate general manager at the Jordan Center and the acting general manager at Pegula, helped to make the partnership possible.
If the Jordan Center is at capacity, spectators will receive a blue, coded bracelet, which will place them in a digital line queue. Rules and Regulations Committee members will allow spectators into the building as others exit on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The system will alert spectators every hour, on the hour, which numbered bracelets will be allowed to enter, either through an official Thon text message or an announcement made at Pegula. Those called will be given a 40-minute grace period to return to the Jordan Center.
Rita Saxena, a dancer for South Asian Student Association, said she is worried about how the overflow location will affect her ability to see her family.
“Thon weekend is first and foremost about the kids and the families … and then, it’s for the dancers too. Seven hundred and eight people were chosen because they deserved it, and they want their parents there to support them,” said Saxena, whose parents are in town this weekend for the festivities.
Saxena suggested that Rules and Regulations implement a policy allowing parents to automatically enter the Jordan Center. She said she sees it as age discrimination because her parents are not able to stand as long or wake up as early as some students.
“They’re the only people that I really want to be here supporting me,” she said.
Patton said shifts at Pegula have been worked into Rules and Regulations committee members’ schedules, and they are prepared to open as capacity is met.