Tailgating and Enhancing the Game Day Experience on The Plains

By Posted on: May 29th, 2013 in Featured Article, Football 18 Comments »

FB0100_t607 - Tailgating @ Samford HallEvery autumn for three generations our family has made the trek to east Alabama to watch the Tigers play and to bask in the glow that is uniquely Auburn. The football game is immensely important, but for me and thousands of others, just being there and tailgating makes for a special day.

Tailgating is one of the great things about college football. And tailgating at Auburn is one of the best in all of America. In an Associated Press poll done in 2010, Auburn was ranked ninth as the best college in the nation for the tailgating experience. I think the poll must have been skewered for no place on earth  could possibly compare to the Loveliest Village.

Some of our most treasured memories as a family are intertwined with Auburn autumns. Reunions with old friends, meeting new friends, watching our children enjoy the day, and now … watching their children enjoy the day. It all makes me feel blessed. It also makes me think, “This is just a little like I expect heaven to be.”

As much as it saddens me to admit it though, it appears tailgating at Auburn in the traditional sense has been in danger of becoming a thing of the past in recent years. The tradition of family, friends, and even opposing fans celebrating this unique autumn experience has been increasingly threatened.

We have been tailgating on the same corner for over 35 years and it’s getting more difficult every year to continue the family tradition. The University has closed off so many streets to parking and tailgating to the point that the law of supply and demand have forced many to abandon the effort.

Now I can understand moving the RV’s away from the stadium, installing the sidewalk chains and ropes a few years ago to keep cars off the grass, and the closing of roads due to new buildings. However, there have been other actions taken in recent years that seem almost by design to hinder parking and tailgating.

A case in point was the closing down of Samford Avenue to parking. Before the fall of 2010, parking had been allowed on Samford. But the beginning of that football season saw the placement of four foot orange cones (with no parking signs attached) on both sides of Samford from the President’s mansion all the way to the athletic fields. It just appeared to be another game day move by the administration that had the effect of impeding tailgating and the game day experience for fans.

I couldn’t figure out what benefit there was to closing the road to parking. Even with parked cars, the avenue was not blocking emergency vehicles and was wide enough for two way traffic.

The action totally defied logic. If you are running a business for profit (and college football has to generate a profit) then it would seem that you would want to make things easier for your customers – not more difficult. Although The University has taken measures to continually improve the game day experience, the increasing reduction of game day parking on campus has had the effect of choking off tailgate spots, and made tailgating more difficult for thousands of Auburn Family members.

Tailgating on the Auburn Campus is unique. It’s not like trying to tailgate in downtown Knoxville and Columbia; or in the over crowded fair like experience of the Grove at Ole Miss. It is a simpler, relaxed family atmosphere.

It has always been part of what makes games on The Plains so special. But with the addition of rental tents in front of both the stadium and the basketball arena, it appears that the (fundraising?) Ole Miss ‘Grove’ type experience is what Auburn has been moving toward. If the school ultimately makes it where you almost have to rent parking or one of the tailgating spots to have the opportunity … then our three generation tradition will come to an end. If that happens, it will be a sad day for our family.

A couple of weeks back, Auburn University President Jay Gogue


wrote an open letter to the Auburn Family (after he received an Athletics Review Committee report)  in which he stated that one of the things he expected of Athletic Director Jay Jacobs was the “enhancing (of) the game-day experience, on and off the field.”

A few days after Dr Gogue’s letter, Jacobs tweeted a picture of (presumably himself with sleeves rolled up scouring over campus maps) ostensibly looking for places for fans to tailgate. 
                                                                                                       BKuv4jDCAAE5Hnd.jpg large- Jay Jacobs & Tailgaiting
In the May 20th tweet he wrote,”Planning continuing today to find more tailgating and parking spaces for the fall. More to come later...”pic.twitter.com/Zsvjx8pHMz

Well if he is serious about finding, “more tailgating and parking spaces,” then I have a suggestion … start by restoring the parking and tailgating to Samford Avenue.

I would like to think the effort is a serious one, yet I can’t help but have my doubts based on recent trends. In addition, police officers brought on campus to help with traffic told me last season they were informed that within the next couple of years more restrictions will be put in place, not less.

As a season ticket holder I am concerned that if the trend continues, Auburn tailgating as we have known it for over a hundred years will disappear. And that folks, won’t enhance the game day experience for anyone.

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  1. daledotwd says:

    It is becoming too expensive to drive to Auburn, purchase tickets to game and tailgate. I no longer purchase season tickets for this reason.

  2. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    I think everyone who reads this and is familiar with tailgating at Auburn will agree with you.

    College football’s popularity is increasing every year. It is amazing how much more popular it is now than just ten years ago. It may rival the NFL as the most watched sporting event in the USA.

    As a consequence, traffic to games has become a problem for venues which have not been designed to address the influx of so many added vehicles to the normal street flow. From parking on people’s lawns and walking several blocks to the stadium, to parking in proscribed lots farther away and taking shuttle buses to the games, we can see how the simple logistics of CARS has become seemingly unmanageable.

    But the actions of the administration to tailgating has taken an antagonistic turn. As reasonable people, we might have to accept registering in advace for a designated spot. That is simply a nod to acknowledging the huge number of folks who wish to tailgate and avoid getting into a fistfight at the venue over a spot.

    However, it seems that every year rules are put in place to further alienate the most ardent fans from engaging in an important tradition which enhances everyone’s game day experience.

    This is one of those times when people need to organize a movement to make their voices heard and to express their opinions to the administration.

    • LSU Jonno says:

      FYI…And I only know this because I’ve made the same comment before only to look up the answer and be very surprised…

      College football viewership doesn’t come close to the NFL. Last year’s superbowl, the highest rated all-time, scored a 48.1 rating. The 2011 BCS NC game between Auburn and Oregon, the highest rated all-time, scored a 15.3.

      Obviously the numbers for the biggest events don’t tell the whole story, but if you do some research you’ll see that college football isn’t competitive with NFL ratings. This blew my mind given that there are so many more televised college games than NFL games.

    • AETiger AETiger says:

      Last year was it for this 30 year season ticket holder & alum. I am out of the season ticket business for the reasons the article points out. My tailgate crew has had to move numerous times due to the University’s actions. From Memorial Coliseum, to Drake, to the drill fields, to the new dorms on Wire Rd, to where ever the University would let us park (lastly to the band practice field). Every year, the tailgating situation gets worse for those simply looking for a place to park. Add to that 12:00 EST games or god-forbid 9:00 PM EST games (meaning I get home at 2:00 in the freaking morning); the cost of the tickets; crappy non-conference games; the TUF contribution; it goes on & on. The AU administration & college football as a whole is doing a good job of alienating their best customers. I am out. I’ll just converse with Acid during the games while watching in AC on high-def; drinking a cold one; enjoying my free nearby parking.

  3. AuburnMisfit AuburnMisfit says:

    Take a look at this article: http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2013/sec-falling-attendance/ . Falling attendance at SEC games. None of the solutions to enhance the game experience is fixing tailgating. How can one improve the game day experience and, at the same time, lessen the tailgating experience? Those things go hand in hand, IMO.

  4. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    Can’t give it up! We’ve been out at the fields on Donahue for the last 8 years. Moved from Coliseum parking lot when they started going up on the prices. They keep threatening to start charging out there but after last year ~ the talk has died down. Although the Ag Dept charges now for across the street and the park was nearly empty and everyone came across the street. It’s a good hike but the only saving grace last year was having fun being with the tailgating folks whether we won or not. Maybe that’s what the PTB don’t understand!

  5. Tigerstripe Tigerstripe says:

    As tailgating goes, so goes attendance. Without tailgating with friends, fans will just stay in the comfort of their homes especially now with additional coverage through SEC network and others…Let’s once again watch the leadership on this one.

  6. mikeautiger says:

    Wile tailgating has become an issue for me we still have a spot. But what really chaps my hide is the rising cost of season tickets. As stated in the report of JJ there needs to be improvement in customer relation, my family has supported Auburn since 1949 and the rules changed about who you can pass the tickets down to. Loyal fans that are there week in and week out for over 60 years, being forced to give up seats so some Johny come lately can get the tickets at a higher price and end up selling them on line. Loyalty and love of Aubuen counts for nothing it is all about the money. Fr the first time in my life I am probably not coming to some of the little games because by the time I ride 4 hours, cost of gas, hotel, etc. it is just not worth the cost. If you want to fill the stadium reduce the costs and more money will be made because more people who love auburn will be coming to the games.

  7. GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

    Tailgaiting at Auburn has changed. My family are some of those that you said would “abandon the effort.”
    When I was a boy, my family used to tailgate off of Roosevelt. Those were some of the best memories of my childhood. When it was closed off and remodled as a walking street to the stadium we could still tailgate there. But it became too much for my grandfather (even with our help) to carry all our stuff several blocks to the site. It was difficult to find another place so he just gave up.

    He does not attend games today. His health isn’t good enough to attend now anyway but it was when that area was closed to cars. Our family understands that some of the loss in tailgate spots is due to progress. But by the same token, it does look like the school would be pleased if everyone paid to park in a field and rode a shuttle bus in either that or rent a spot. I still attend a few games a year but we do not tailgate unless we are invited to someone else’s tailgate.

    This is a point that has affected and still affects many of us. I don’t know if the school will now become more sensitive to the fans now that Dr Gogue has told JJ to make things better for us but at least its being talked about. Thanks ATM, we need to keep the subject of how the fans are treated at the front along with getting back to having winning teams.

    • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

      Agree but as I read somewhere the other day, the best way to enhance the game day experience immediately for us … is to Win!

  8. UnHo4AU UnHo4AU says:

    My fear is that the administration’s idea of “enhancing” the game day experience will include closing the majority of the campus down to tailgating, except for those that are willing to pay for a spot and parking. I increasingly get the feeling that if the University could have it’s way, people would come to the came 2 hours before, park, go to the game and leave. “Tailgating” would be only available to those willing to rent tents in officially sanctioned areas. I hope I’m wrong, but I get a bad feeling about all of this.

    • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

      I think your right 4AU. The moves by the admin the last few years makes us all leary of the vague promises to find more parking and tailgating spots but what can we do?

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      Bingo.

  9. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    ……It’s probably not my place to comment, because I’ve never been able to justify the expense of buying season tickets. Could I afford it? Sure. If I made it a priority. Maybe give up my beach vacation, keep cars 20 years instead of 15, give up steak nights… I still manage to get down there a couple of times a year, but trust me when I say that I’m strictly an economy-mode guy. I park off campus, walk in, and have often just brown-bagged in a lunch.

    ……But I do think it’s crazy for the school not to roll out the red carpet for the tailgaters. SERIOUS donations come from that camp. And it’s a scene like no other. Some of my best times at Auburn are walking around and talking to those who’ve set up camp. You’ll never meet more friendly people.

  10. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Dudes, this is depressing. It bums me out that the next time I make the trip down to the Plains for a game that it won’t be slightly changed, but radically changed…..I fear is that the J’s might be THAT dumb to fundamentally change what something that makes Auburn immeasurably special.

    • AETiger AETiger says:

      TOTM,
      If you haven’t been back in the last five years, you will be depressed. It is not the AU of old.

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