By Chelsea Boozer, The Daily Helmsman
A newly secured tailgating lot for students may change the atmosphere at Thursday night's first home football game.
The Student Government Association, in a partnership with The University of Memphis Athletic Department and other student organizations, helped contract a 300-space parking lot adjacent to Tiger Lane on the southwest side of the Liberty Bowl stadium exclusively for students.
The idea, according to Athletic Director R. C. Johnson, is to obtain the lot for every home game through private donations. So far, he's only obtained enough donated money to pay for the lot for the first game. The Athletic Department will have to pay $3,000 per game to the City of Memphis to use the lot.
"For six home games, that would mean a total of $18,000," he said. "This is not the best time to be out raising money, but we went all out for this first game to try to do it."
SGA President Tyler DeWitt said his objective is to improve the student experience and increase student attendance to games. He said the record for student attendance at a game was 4,100 in 1996 when the Tigers toppled a University of Tennessee team led by Peyton Manning. DeWitt's goal is to beat that record at Thursday's game, he said.
"It's really time that we bring that environment back. This is our team. This is our city. This is our University. This is about taking pride in our University, our football program, and changing that environment," DeWitt said.
Thursday, when the Tigers take on Mississippi State, the lot meant for tailgating will be open for a certain number of students and Registered Student Organizations to get their pregame party started.
DeWitt said that the SGA is in charge of allocating the spots and have set aside certain portions to the three Greek councils so that "some of our more motivated students are in attendance and will be able to tailgate."
The next priority was given to Registered Student Organizations. An email was sent out last week offering them spots where their members could tailgate and "build a sense of community," DeWitt said.
DeWitt also emailed the general student body to notify them of open spots for individual students.
If the funds are secured, whoever gets the spots at the first game will keep them for the remainder of the season. However, even if a student doesn't acquire a spot in the lot, they and their friends are free to hang out in the tailgating area.
"We don't want 300 cars in it," DeWitt said. "This is for tailgating. We are really just trying to change the atmosphere of our football games."
He said about 20 or more spots will be left open for a general area for special events, where freshmen students participating in Frosh Frenzy, an opportunity to rush the field on the first home game, will gather pre-game Thursday. In the future, the area will be used for other pre-game activities like at football homecoming.
Liberty Bowl security personnel will be in the lot, monitoring drinking and general tailgating activities.
Only those given a pass by the SGA will be allowed by security to park in the lot. SGA representatives will check each game to see if that student or organization is using their spot at games.
"We will check every single game, and if you are not using your spot or you're violating rules, we reserve the right to revoke your spot," DeWitt said.
The SGA, Student Activities Council and the Blue Crew will hold a mini pep rally during the RSO Fair today at 3 p.m. on the University Center Alumni Mall.