Tailgating fans forced to relocate

The change in location is because of the construction of lots near the Metrodome.

Brady Averill

Parking spaces on the north side of Washington Avenue by the Metrodome are shrinking, forcing University officials to direct Gophers tailgating fans farther from the stadium – all the way past the Target Center.

Officials said they don’t have many choices other than telling fans to go to Rapid Park, a parking lot on the west side of the arena.

“I know that Rapid Park is not ideal to everyone,” Betsi Sherman, the Athletics Office associate director of marketing said. “But really, when looking at the downtown area, there aren’t a lot of options.”

Tailgating is a football game tradition for many Gophers fans. For a few hours before home games, they can socialize, grill food, drink beer and get excited.

This year, the University has fewer official locations it can use for tailgating, Sherman said.

Many lots are owned privately, she said, and are either being sold or lost to construction – a reason why there is less room for tailgating.

About 75 percent of Washington Avenue lots that were tailgated on last season are under construction, Sherman said.

Still, at least a couple of hundred Gophers fans tailgated near the Metrodome last Saturday before the football game. But their days tailgating by the stadium might be numbered.

By no later than the 2005 season, Sherman said, all Washington Avenue lots near the Metrodome will be under construction.

For Gophers fans who went to Rapid Park last Saturday, the University encouraged taking shuttle buses, light rail transit or finding another way to get to the Metrodome.

Some regular tailgaters said they were unhappy about the new official tailgating area being further downtown.

Alumna Jenny Bierbaum has tailgated for six years, attending nearly every home football game.

Last Saturday, at Rapid Park, was a trial run, Bierbaum said.

The tailgating location change did not matter, she said.

“I’d still love to tailgate, period,” she said.

It is Bierbaum’s hope, she said, that she can someday do it on campus.

It is “more along the college experience,” she said.

Civil engineering student Ben Krause wasn’t as positive about the switch.

“I don’t like it being over here,” he said. “It’s so far away, but it’s the only option right now, and we’ll deal with it until we get back on campus.”

Right now, the University is not zoned for tailgating, Sherman said, but if that changes, fans could possibly tailgate on campus next year.

“For this year, there wasn’t timing to get it done, but it is being looked at, and it is being considered,” she said.

Even if the University does get zoned for tailgating next year, the distance between campus and the Metrodome is similar to that from Rapid Park, Sherman said.

Marketing sophomore Adam Severin said he tried the Rapid Park lot last weekend, and will probably return to the Washington Avenue lots on Saturday.

“It’s a better atmosphere, and it’s closer,” he said. “I think we’re going back.”