When the student tailgate lot moved its present patch of grass on the north side, I was skeptical.
The lot that students would be placed in was more constricted than before. It was no longer an open space but a bordered-up rectangle, and it did not seem to mesh with the rest of Coyote Nation. Alumni, locals and other visitors would be a distance away, leaving student tailgate on its own island.
Shouldn’t we all be together in preparation for kickoff?
At first the move wasn’t entirely embraced. The first tailgate in the new location was William Penn last fall, and the new location did not see more than 300 visitors. The open plot of grass was just that, an open plot of grass.
But everything changed last Dakota Days. The 100th anniversary celebration saw that same plot of grass filled to the brim. The trucks lining the tailgate’s tape edges stacked dozens of students looking across a sea of red.
The student population and their visitors had found their tailgate spot. The university’s move to enclose the area provides for a tightly-packed student body that seems like a patch of red visible from space when you are trapped in the middle. The shoulder-to-shoulder tailgate makes for solid selfies and snapchats that show to the world that the biggest party on campus is happening underneath the watchful eye of the DakotaDome.
Now, exactly one year since that first blowout tailgate on that patch of grass, gamedays are a coming-together party for students rather than a scatterplot of small activities that occurred in tailgate’s previous parking lot location.
The new student tailgate location has become such a hit that during this Dakota Days celebration, the celebration extended beyond the limits of the taped ribbon. Extending about 15 feet to the right and nearly in the practice soccer field, the established-quarters of tailgate can no longer contain the popularity of the new location.
Student Services’ made a popular move that centralized the student gameday experience to a field, but now the restrictive space needs some breathing room. Even if extended only 10-15 yards, the tailgate can continue to grow, and students will find even more comfort amongst the masses of red shirts, trucks and tailgate activities.
Students and visitors are starting to breach the established space and extending the tailgate zone themselves. But, if the space is expanded logistically, more trucks, more music and more people can continue utilizing the space without having to squeeze through 20 people just to move a few steps.
Student tailgate is now everything the university hopes it to be – safe, popular and exciting. Now, the potential for growth is the next step.