New changes are being implemented to tailgating rules in the Grove and the Circle for the 2015 football season.
Fans will no longer be able to claim a spot in the Grove or the Circle until 7:30 p.m. on the Fridays before game day. They will be allowed to loiter in the Grove until 6:30 p.m., at which point all tailgating areas will be cleared for one hour. That means that every person and all personal items must be removed until the official opening at 7:30 p.m.
Large LED countdown clocks will be placed around tailgating areas and scheduled to signal at 7:30 p.m. when all tailgaters will be allowed to go in and claim spots for their tents.
In the past, there have been problems with people stationing themselves in popular tailgating areas all day Friday to reserve spots.
“The space saving was creating a mentality of ‘I can guarantee my exact space in the Grove’, but the beauty of the Grove is that it’s open to anybody,” said Michael Thompson, Senior Associate Athletics Director for communications and marketing.
There will also be a new allowance in the form of “Approved Tailgating Vendors.”
According to Thompson, research conducted by Ole Miss shows that at least 60 percent of the Grove is set up by outside companies.
Approved vendors will have access to vendor vehicle passes. With those passes, they will be allowed to unload customers’ tents from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Fridays before a home game at storage/operations tents in predetermined locations in the Grove and Circle.
The vendors, however, will not be allowed to claim tent spots until 7:30 p.m. with the rest of the tailgaters. According to Thompson, this policy will allow fans coming in with their own tents access to better parking and a safer, more enjoyable experience.
According to tent vendors William Burns and Dylan Shockey of Southern Setup, the number of tents set up for a home football date varies from game to game, but their company usually sets up between 90 to 120 tents on the Fridays before a game.
“This creates a safer atmosphere,” Shockey said. “It holds the vendors responsible for their actions while also maintaining the integrity of the Grove and making it much safer for the fans and the vendors.”
The vendors aren’t just here to make money, however.
“We’re an extension of Ole Miss,” Burns said. “We’re representatives of Ole Miss not only because we’re conducting business on the grounds, but also we’re here to make sure that the fans have a good experience.”
“We’re very privileged to get to be here at the University of Mississippi, and we want to share that privilege with everybody else and say ‘Come tailgate in the Grove,” Shockey said. “This is Oxford, Mississippi, where Southern hospitality is at its best.’”
Not everyone is convinced that the new rules are changes for the better, however.
“I think it’s a good idea that they’re implementing it for safety reasons, but it’s probably going to be even more chaotic for people who don’t go through the vendors,” Marty Glenn, a sophomore Arabic major, said.
Another change to game days in the Grove is the addition of several new walking lanes throughout the Grove.
“It helps ease some of the congestion and gives people more tent spaces along walkways,” Thompson said. “In our research, that was the number one thing that people wanted in regards to tent location.”
Along with the new lanes, approximately 27 metal street signs will be added to make it easier to know your location.
“One of the things that people shared with us is that it’s hard to tell people where you are, so at each intersection of the walkways, there will be a really nice street sign that will tell you where you are,” said Thompson.
One other change in the rules states amplified music is now prohibited.
“In the past, there really wasn’t a rule saying that people had to keep their music down, but now, if you’re playing music that is creating an unpleasant experience for tents around you, an officer can actually say, ‘You need to turn that down’,” said Thompson.
According to organizers, tailgating in the Grove and the Circle during the 2015 football season should go more smoothly than ever.
“One thing that I want to drive home is that we take for granted how amazing the Grove is, and I hope that all of us realize we have the greatest tailgating venue in the world and there isn’t a bad spot out there,” Thompson said.