Athletics hands off tailgating to students

Campus events flood parking Lots 100 (East Headhouse), 101 (North Animal Science), 103 (West Vet Science), 104 (East Vet Science), Lot 115 (West Ag Museum), Lot 173 (West Motor Pool Gravel) and Lot 166 (West Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium) will be barricaded late evening Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s football game. Parking lots north of North Campus Drive will be used first with attendees expected to begin arriving by 12 p.m. Additional lots along North Campus Drive will be restricted to event parking beginning at 4 p.m. North Campus Drive is expected to close to traffic at 5:30 p.m. Gates to the stadium will open at 5:30 p.m. with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

Students will kickoff the South Dakota State football season in their own tailgating area for the second year at the Aug. 31 home opener.  

Jonathan Treiber, director of athletic marketing, said the process to secure students their own tailgating area began a couple years ago. They were relocated last year to the north Frost Arena lot. 

“The best thing about the tailgating changes is that it will be a student-led experience,” Treiber said. “We want campus groups and organizations to take full advantage of this with tents and grills — it’s meant for the students to gather and enjoy.”

Athletics opened the lot to students, but tailgating attendance was low, so they teamed up with Students’ Association President Taylin Albrecht to help get students to tailgate there.

Albrecht said she will focus efforts on engaging students in the tailgating area this year by working with students to secure whatever they need, like tents, booths, games or other entertainment.

“Student Affairs and Athletics offered to provide financial support as needed for activities and events,” Albrecht said. “They’ve been really supportive of enhancing that space.”

While there is no programming or events set in stone yet, Albrecht said it’s entirely in the hands of students to make tailgating their own experience.

“We’ve talked about having Aramark cater, an ice cream scoop, bean bag tournaments and other yard games, live music, DJs — it’s really up to the students,” Albrecht said.

Treiber said putting student tailgating in student hands is their biggest goal. 

Jacob Von Bergen, senior wildlife and fisheries major, was part of the discussions and planning to revamp tailgating and give students ownership of their experience.

“This year, students can look forward to a better experience with a more student-led focus,” Von Bergen said. “The goal is to get student groups and individuals to make this their own spot with the opportunity to have a free area to grill, play yard games and enjoy a great game-day experience.”

Engaging students from the start of tailgating to the end of the game is Athletics’ main goal, which they are striving toward with a bigger push on social media.

“We are trying to let students be a part of every moment of game day,” Treiber said. “We are partnering with Tagboard for more social engagement on the video board. It will filter through posts with #GoJacks to share as much fan content on the board as possible.”

Overall, Treiber said the football team simply wants their fans to support them in the stadium; to be loud and rowdy and help motivate them against the opposing teams.

“There is no better atmosphere than when students are going bananas,” Treiber said. “We continue to hear from the community, as well as the players and coach Stig, that they feed off student energy.”

Last year, Treiber said there was a 5 percent increase in student attendance at football games, but he hopes for a 10 percent increase this year, which is about 250 more students per game. 

Treiber has even higher hopes for the home opener against Duquesne Dukes on Thursday.

“3,814 (students) is our attendance record, which we set at last year’s home-opener and we want to break that,” Treiber said. “My goal for Thursday is 4,500.”

The game was moved up to Thursday specifically with students in mind as “a great way to kick off the weekend,” Treiber said. There will be 1,500 free sunglasses handed out and the Barnyard Cadets will lead the game day walk from Larson Commons at 5 p.m., which Treiber hopes will help attract students.

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But it all starts with tailgating, Albrecht said. Traditionally, students who come to tailgating will go to the game, which is why Albrecht is focused on revamping the student tailgating experience. 

Von Bergen said student organizations are encouraged to set up their own areas to gather together and recruit, or showcase what they do.

“The school gave one of the best parking locations and tailgating areas to students to basically do what they want with the location,” Von Bergen said. “So utilizing it should be a no-brainer when it comes to needing a place to get excited for football games on a Saturday, or in this week’s case, a Thursday-night game.”