The Dogs scrimmaged Tuesday, my season tickets arrived, I sent off the check to reserve our spot at the church where we park and I made my reservation for the kickoff meeting of the Touchdown Club of Athens.
It’s starting to really feel like football season!
Aside from the annual shopping spree at the UGA Bookstore with my daughter next week, that pretty much takes care of my preseason preparations. But if you’re one of the folks who do tailgating in a major way (we don’t), you’ve got some issues to resolve thanks to the new restrictions, especially if you used to tailgate on the historic North Campus quads and Herty Field.
As you’ll recall, the university got fed up with the trashing of North Campus the past couple of seasons and decided to clamp down on tailgating there by issuing new rules that essentially allow nothing but low-key picnics in the area. Among the items no longer allowed are all the ingredients of first-class tailgating: tents, kegs, generators, televisions, amplified music, grills or cookers of any type, tables larger than 4 feet long and any furniture other than folding chairs. And you can’t set up more than four hours before game time.
For the purposes of these game day restrictions, North Campus is defined as the area bounded by Broad Street, Lumpkin Street, Baldwin Street and Jackson Street (including, but not limited to, the quadrangle between Broad Street and Old College, the quadrangle between Old College and the Main Library, and Herty Field).
Where will the folks who want to do more than spread a tablecloth on the ground go for their tailgating? I asked my nephew Al Skelton, whose tailgate party I wrote about last season. Al used to set up his tent near the UGA Chapel (and took his tailgating so seriously that he rarely bothered to actually go into the game, preferring to watch on one of the many big-screen TVs around him).
“That’s a good question,” Al said, “and I don’t think we’ve made a final decision yet. It’s disappointing that the spot we’ve been at for the last five years isn’t available anymore. It’s pretty much the only place I’ve tailgated. I think we’re torn pretty evenly between finding somewhere else on campus (although I don’t even know what the options are) or just tailgating in backyards here in Atlanta.”
What are the options? Well, they’re fairly limited. One of the reasons North Campus had become game day central was because the school banned sidewalk parking and built new buldings on some of the prime real estate where folks used to gather before a game. The fact that students are now into tailgating, formerly a pastime of alums, has added to the crunch.
But there are still places to tailgate in the old style. Once you get off North Campus, the Myers quadrangle has always had tailgating, sometimes getting pretty crowded, and that space will now be much more in demand. When my son lived in Reed Hall I was always surprised there wasn’t much tailgating in the quad there, and since that’s outside the North Campus restricted area, I’d expect that location will see more people setting up. The area along Lumpkin Street no doubt will be even more in demand than in the past. And East Campus already had a fair amount of tailgating and there’s probably room for more people there. It’s a bit out of the way and lacks the scenery of North Campus, but it’s not that bad a walk to the stadium.
It was obvious something needed to be done about tailgaters treating the university’s most historic area like a dump, and the crowding there last year had just about reached the gridlock level, but the case can be made that the UGA administration went too far in basically eliminating full-fledged tailgating on North Campus.
In fact, Athens resident Bruce Hendley did a pretty good job of laying out that case in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s Athens Banner-Herald, pointing out that moving the tailgating off North Campus won’t eliminate the littering problem and might just disperse the trash to other areas of campus. The shifting of folks off North Campus will probably hurt business in downtown Athens, he notes. And, he asks, why were tents and TVs banned from North Campus? How do they harm the area since they’re not left behind?
Said Hendley: “Here are things we know about tailgating: It’s only six days a year, and people come to Athens and spend money for the entire weekends surrounding those six days. The economy really needs those people right now. Why make it easier for alumni and fans to keep their tailgating and their money at home?”
He suggested allowing tailgating on North Campus and putting more police there to issue citations for littering.
My own take on all this: The new rules are probably an interim measure to clear the entrenched tailgaters out of North Campus. Eventually, tailgating will return to the area, but most likely on a paid basis, where you rent a space that’s already set up for you. Whatever company is hired to run the tailgating will ensure that no garbage is left behind, and UGA will make some money off the whole deal.
Sure, some of the charm of fan-run tailgating will be lost with a pay-to-play system. But the black eye that the garbage strewn everywhere after games was giving the university was anything but charming.
I’d love to hear from tailgaters about their plans for the coming season and your thoughts on the future of tailgating at UGA.
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