Tailgating and Enhancing the Game Day Experience on The Plains
Every 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.
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.