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Bringing the bird to life: Student Senate approves $9,000 for two Blugold mascot costumes

UW-Eau Claire students should expect a live Blugold sighting sometime in the near future.

Senate voted 24-2 Monday to shell out nearly $9,000 on two Blugold mascot costumes – half of which University Centers will reimburse.

The Blugold Bird was drawn up and voted in as the official mascot of the Eau Claire student body last semester, although the university does not officially recognize it.

Junior Michaela McCamey plays volleyball at Eau Claire.  She said putting a face on the Blugold doesn’t change much.  Her teammates on the Blugold Gymnastics team don’t feel any different, she said.

“I’m on an athletics team so it’s kind of fun to joke ‘oh we’re a fictional bird,’” McCamey said.

Senator Pat Henricks voted against the bill on Monday. Henricks played Blugold football for Eau Claire. He said the football team favors the original Blugold symbol over the bird.

“(The Blugold football team)  just doesn’t think we really want the mascot,” Henricks said.

Blugold Bird merchandise is sold in the University Bookstore and elsewhere around Eau Claire.

Kevin Everard, University Bookstore general merchandise manager, said demand for Blugold Bird gear has kept up with other Eau Claire wares.

“We’ve embraced it and continue to sell it, so I guess we’ll see how far it goes with other groups and organizations on campus here,” Everard said.

Everard said he was surprised by the number of alumni who embraced the Blugold Bird.  The Blugold Bird logo is now on everything from coffee cups to sweatpants.

Bryan Larson, Finance Commission director, said a campus mascot helps generate revenue.

Every time someone buys a mascot product from the bookstore, a portion of that sale goes back into Student Senate.

“In terms of sales, merchandise in the bookstore, even if it’s just t-shirts, I think having a mascot will compliment that,” Larson said.

The money Senate gets from bookstore sales is expected to cover future mascot expenses. The mascot costumes voted on Monday should last four to five years, Larson said.  He said a mascot could help bolster school spirit on campus and scrub out confusion.

“One of the things we can do on this campus to sort of encourage school spirit and increase interest … is to have a physical embodiment of what we stand for and what a Blugold is,” Larson said.

Despite some pushback from senators and students, a mascot has unique advantages, Larson said.

“I know it kind of sounds silly when you hear it, but just about any organization can point to a mascot like Tony the Tiger …  PR-wise, it will be pretty beneficial,” Larson said.

Each costume costs about $4,500.  The costume funded by students will be paid for through a special reserve account surplus.

Senate has been trying to push a mascot for three and a half years, Student Body Vice President Patrick Martin said during Monday’s Senate meeting.

Mascots will be showing up at campus events in the near future.

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