When University of Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill arrived on campus three years ago, he said he wanted to make Gophers football the main attraction on Saturdays in the fall.
The University took one step toward meeting Kill’s goal Thursday night by opening a new, students-only tailgating lot outside TCF Bank Stadium before the team’s season opener against Nevada-Las Vegas.
Goldy Gopher and the University’s marching band welcomed students to the Victory Lot, northeast of the stadium, near the Thompson Center for Environmental Management.
The University had sold 80 of the 90 available season passes for the lot as of Friday, said Chris Werle, senior associate athletics director for strategic communications, though he was unable to say exactly how many students showed up at the lot Thursday night.
“For a first game, we were pleased with how it went,” Werle said, adding that he expects to sell more passes in the coming weeks.
Werle said the $50 season passes are designed to create a better game-day atmosphere for students, not to rake in revenue.
Because many students hadn’t moved back to campus by Thursday, the lot was only about half full, said construction management senior Alex Bade. Some students, especially freshmen, might not even know about the lot yet, he said.
“It was a little disappointing at first,” Bade said. “But I think once the message gets out, more people will come.”
Despite the low turnout, the atmosphere at the Victory Lot was still an improvement over other tailgating lots near the stadium, said computer science senior Anthony Nixon.
There are 10 other tailgating lots near the stadium, but the Victory Lot is the first to be reserved exclusively for students.
Nixon said the school spirit and energy at the Victory Lot were better than other lots he’s gone to in the past.
Although he enjoyed the new lot, finance senior John Blix said the security presence may deter some students.
The lot allows students of all ages, but those interested in underage drinking might avoid the lot knowing it’s heavily patrolled, Blix said.
“I don’t know if that’s fixable,” he said. “I just know that some people may have a problem with it.”
Because Thursday marked the first time the Victory Lot was used for student tailgating, Werle said, the University is working on gathering student feedback about any issues.
“We’re using the first game to work on the kinks and see what went well,” he said.
Bade said he thinks the Victory Lot is a good step toward creating a more enjoyable atmosphere at football games.
“Coach Kill has been talking about making Saturdays all about Gopher football,” he said. “I think this is something that will accomplish that.”