Athletics offers new, monetized tailgating experience

Posted on Aug 23 2018 - 5:55am by Blake Alsup

The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation is launching a new tailgating experience for game days this fall.

This seemingly all-inclusive tailgating will provide game day attendees with a 10-by-20 tent, tables, chairs, TVs and more at the north end zone plaza near Vaught-Hemingway Stadium — for a price.

These tailgates will cost $17,500 per tent for the entire 2018 season, which amounts to $2,500 per game.

Lloyd Tower provides the entrance to the Walk of Champions in front of Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium. Photo by Christian Johnson

The athletic foundation’s assistant director of development, Da’Ron Brown, said the tailgating experience wasn’t set up to earn money but to provide a family-friendly atmosphere focused on fans and donors.

He said the goal is to carry on a positive momentum from the spring semester, during which the athletics department hired new coaches and had successful seasons with baseball and track and field.

“So the fall is essential,” Brown said. “Our goal here is to provide the ultimate fan experience and something new. That’s what we’re all about — just having that new energy.”

The price tag also includes a parking pass for an adjacent parking lot and close proximity to a designated kids’ play area and restrooms.

Other benefits include concierge and security staffs. Brown said although security is present throughout the Grove and stadium during game day, there will “be a good amount of security in that specific area.”

Ole Miss Athletics is also extending its catering services, provided by Centerplate Catering, as an additional, optional purchase for those who purchase the turnkey tailgating package.

Clay Cavett, associate director of alumni affairs, said the reserved tailgating section will function as the final stop on the Walk of Champions and will include a viewing riser.

“It’s a riser that’s right up against the Starnes Center, and it’s my understanding they’re going to put tailgating up on that riser,” Cavett said.

Though this style of reserved tailgating is a first for Ole Miss Athletics, Cavett said he doesn’t see this change as a step towards charging fees for tailgating in the Grove.

“The Grove experience is what it is,” Cavett said. “I don’t see it ever going in that direction.”

Colton Benford is owner of Tailgate Group, a vendor that provides tailgating services in the Grove. He estimates that they set up approximately 120 tents per game. He doesn’t see the athletic foundation’s new offering as a threat to business and said the addition of turnkey tailgating “in no way changes any traditions that are existing in the Grove right now.”

Instead, he sees it as an additional option for individuals looking for new tailgating opportunities.

Photo by Christian Johnson

“It’s making the best tailgating experience in the country even better,” Benford said. “It’s adding to it. I don’t think that it’s taking anything away from what exists.”

Of the 21 tents available, 13 have been sold so far, according to Brown. He believes turnkey tailgating might start a trend at other universities.

“When you look at the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, we are looked upon as top-notch, so it’s just about staying above the curve,” Brown said. “We always want to be the initiator, because now you will probably see other programs doing the same.”