‘Block G’ party debuts on Oak St.

At Kill’s request and with the city’s approval, the University shut down part of Oak Street to party.

Students, families and alumni wait patiently for the U of M Marching Band and cheerleaders to arrive at TCF Stadium for the first home football game of the season.

Students, families and alumni wait patiently for the U of M Marching Band and cheerleaders to arrive at TCF Stadium for the first home football game of the season.

Andrew Krammer

 

Pregame festivities spilled into the streets Saturday as the University of Minnesota blocked off a section of Oak Street to set up for coach Jerry KillâÄôs first âÄúBlock GâÄù tailgating party.

In an effort to energize fans, Kill urged the University to close off a section of Oak Street between TCF Bank Stadium and Mariucci Arena to allow students to bring the pregame bustle closer to the field. The result was a block party featuring a plethora of games, sampling of fried food and a live bluegrass band.

âÄúLetâÄôs get it on. It should be the biggest party in the state,âÄù Kill said. âÄúThatâÄôs what itâÄôs supposed to be.âÄù

The idea came when he visited campus in the spring.

âÄúThey had the âÄòspring bashâÄô or something, and they had everything shut down. Just one big hoopla party, everybodyâÄôs having a great time,âÄù Kill told the Star Tribune last week.

âÄúI said, âÄòWhy donâÄôt they do that on game day?âÄô … You go to Nebraska and Lincoln, thatâÄôs what they do. We should be user-friendly âÄî thatâÄôs all IâÄôm saying.âÄù

The area between Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street was closed down from 11:30 a.m. until the kickoff of the GophersâÄô football home opener at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against the New Mexico State Aggies.

It was not a typical tailgating session though, as the University still banned alcohol in the blocked off area.

Families enjoyed face painting and a variety of sports games made available early in the afternoon, but crowds of fans took some time to trickle in.

St. Paul native Rich Rosalez watched as his nephewâÄôs kids competed in a basketball shooting competition.

âÄúThis is great for the kids,âÄù Rosalez said. âÄúIncredible idea by Kill; itâÄôll bring me to GopherâÄôs games earlier and more often.âÄù

When it was time for the âÄòVictory WalkâÄô ritual, electricity filled the air. Cheers came from Gophers fans of all ages as they watched their team march from Fifth Street toward the stadium. The tradition began in 2009 when the new stadium opened.

As the last players made it past the crowd, local band, Sawtooth Bluegrass took the stage led by Minnesota menâÄôs gymnast Jesse Moravec.

The group of five musicians played for the crowd with Moravec on lead vocals and playing mandolin.

âÄúThis is a great opportunity for us,âÄù Moravec said. âÄúIt isnâÄôt our typical audience, but itâÄôs still a great idea for fans.âÄù

Two hours prior to game time, the crowd grew in size as more students piled in to the small one-block section. Freshmen Ryan Reza and Rob Grosskopf were in line at the Marine Corps booth waiting to compete in a pull-up contest.

Like many students, they said they saw past the flashy festivities and know what is important to the student body. 

âÄúThis is cool and all, but we need the win.âÄù Reza said. âÄúThatâÄôs why weâÄôre all excited. ThatâÄôs why we come out here.âÄù

Other activities included a bean bag toss, football passing contest, fried food booths and even a table set up devoted to handing out free slices of pizza.

An hour prior to kickoff, all games ceased as the UniversityâÄôs Marching Band made its entrance with more than 300 members filling the tiny area. As MinnesotaâÄôs dance team performed alongside, fans lined up on the stadium side of Oak Street to sing along with several school anthems.

Chants of âÄúBeat up the Aggies!âÄù came from the band as they continued to pump up the crowd for more than half an hour. 

âÄúThis is a great atmosphere,âÄù Grosskopf said. âÄúI hope every pregame is like this.âÄù

The tailgating party came only a day after coach Kill spent time riding around campus in a golf cart, handing out free tickets to SaturdayâÄôs game.

âÄúThereâÄôs no place for them to really tailgate. So weâÄôre saying, the students are important,âÄù Kill told the Star Tribune.

âÄúThatâÄôs why we all get paychecks âÄî the students. We always complain about the students, but none of us would have a job if it wasnâÄôt for the students. So I think we ought to take care of them.âÄù