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Argos Game Canceled; But Downtown Workers Lose

The University of West Florida held an historic event for the campus history as the UWF Football team hosted Southwest Baptist in the first game ever held on campus. The Argos defeated the Bearcats 63-14 at Pen Air Field on Sept. 11, 2021.
William Tate
University of West Florida
The University of West Florida held an historic event for the campus history as the UWF Football team hosted Southwest Baptist in the first game ever held on campus. The Argos defeated the Bearcats 63-14 at Pen Air Field on Sept. 11, 2021.

The University of West Florida football team got an unexpected Saturday off, because of circumstances beyond its control.

It was supposed to be the first game of the season at Blue Wahoos Stadium downtown —the Argos hosting the University of Fort Lauderdale. But the game was called off when a rash of injuries kept the Eagles from fielding a team against UWF.

UFTL is 0-2, after cancelling its first two games, against Southeastern University and Texas Permian Basin, and then losing the next two by a combined score of 131-3. This is the Eagles’ first full season of football.

But it’s not just the football programs involved that are affected by the change of plans.

“We feel just awful for UWF. You know, nobody wants to have a last-minute cancellation like that,” said Donna Kirby, who oversees operations at Blue Wahoos Stadium. “From a business standpoint, terrible for them; from a playoff standpoint, not great for them.”

However, she adds that buys the stadium staff more time to put the finishing touches on a number of projects, such as reconfiguring the playing field from baseball to football.

“It gives us a little time for the new sod that we just installed to take root and be fully into the ground and be ready to go; our next game isn’t until Oct. 16 — that gives us a lot of time,” Kirby said. “In the meantime we’ve got different events that are going on here at the stadium. We’ve got a movie night that’s coming up. There’s always something going on down here at the stadium.”

As with any game, there were food deliveries made to the stadium for Saturday night. Kirby says what can be kept for the next game will be kept, with the rest providing a free lunch for the entire staff of the Studer family of companies.

“That kind of worked out for the staff; we didn’t want anything to go to waste, obviously, so that was kind of a perk,” said Kirby. “So, we’re preparing what we can, took care of what we could, and everything else has gone back – and we’ll save it for the 16th.”

Another issue is that the staff that work the Argo games, many of whom work the Blue Wahoos games during the summer, are losing some pay because of no game this weekend.

“We put it in a call to everyone and said, ‘You may not have heard this already, but just so you know we’re going to cancel the game on Saturday because of Fort Lauderdale not being able to come up’” said Kirby. “And they understand. It’s just a game-by-game thing. It’s not their bread-and-butter; it’s not what they’re paying their mortgages with or anything like that. So, we’ll see them on October 16th.”

UWF pays the city of Pensacola $5,000 per game at the stadium, plus a $1 per ticket surcharge, and 20% of revenue from concessions. The latter amounts depend on the number of attendees and amount of food, drink, and merchandise they purchase.

“We certainly have the loss of the $5,000, but I don’t think it’s as much as the businesses we have,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson. “I don’t have details, but I know it’s fairly significant, because you only get a handful of games; and we see the kind of impact that it has downtown.”

Speaking from the annual Seafood Festival, the mayor said the synergy of that event, coupled with a UWF football game, would generate will be missed.

“Activity is what we’ve been trying and that’s what we’ve tried to do more than anything is create activity,” said the mayor. “That’s what UWF football means to us. We certainly will miss a lot of those people, and it will translate into people being missed at a variety of venues: bars, restaurants, entertainment, and retail.”

West Florida returns to the field next week, when they play at Delta State in their Gulf South Conference opener. The next home game is Oct. 16 to against conference rival West Georgia. Among those to be attending is Robinson.

“I’m going to be the honorary captain, so I don’t want West Georgia to cancel out on us,” Robinson said. “I’m glad I had these events going on with the seafood festival for this weekend, and I didn’t miss this one. But I am looking for that one on [Oct.] 16th — that will be a lot of fun.”

Cancellation of the Fort Lauderdale game is just that — a cancellation. There’s no forfeit involved. The Argonauts remain at 3-0 on the season, and are expected to keep their top national ranking in Division II heading over to Cleveland, Mississippi.