For the first time in more than 15 years, Homecoming at University of Mary Washington will welcome a wide-spread American sports tradition: tailgating.
Through the Athletic Department, UMW alumni can now choose from 44 parking spots reserved specifically for tailgating during Homecoming. The spaces are available for $200 per spot at the soccer facility and $100 per spot at the tennis facility. Students 21 and over can choose from 40 available parking spots at tennis center lot for $75 each.
The festivities begin at 10 a.m. and continue until one hour after the sporting events end.
Athletic Director Ken Tyler said tailgating is an event that will increase the level of campus pride and school spirit during homecoming.
“I think it’s going to be a great way for UMW to be a little more big time and have a whole lot of fun while they support their team and their school,” Tyler said.
Recently, the inquiries about tailgating have been prominent from both students and alumni, according to both Mark Thaden, executive director of Alumni Relations, and Associate Vice President and Dean of student Life, Cedric Rucker.
“Reintroducing tailgating was in response to the many inquiries and requests I received from alumni,” Thaden said.
Thaden was part of a committee assembled to tackle the tailgating reintroduction, which included Tyler, Rucker, Chief of Campus Police Eddie Perry, the Student Government Association (SGA) and student representatives.
Rucker said he is excited to bring the students and alumni together and “continue to advance a sense of community” at UMW. He wants schools visiting during Homecoming to leave UMW with a positive view and appreciation of UMW.
“We’re special folks,” he added.
While students can purchase parking spots in the tennis center parking lot, Tyler said, “Our primary focus, at least initially, is on our alumni.”
Since this is the first year, Tyler said, there is “a little bit of trial and error” in the process.
While students do have some opportunity to tailgate, Junior biology major Margot Jelinek thinks the main focus should be on current students, since they are the ones attending the majority of games.
“Starting a new tradition needs to start with the students already here,” Jelinek said.
As for cost, Tyler called the amount, “a fair price for something that is a pretty exclusive experience we’re offering.”
UMW is a “different dynamic” compared to other universities, he said.
At the tailgating scene, there will be a “strong presence” from both campus police and athletic department staff to make sure things run smoothly and safely.
“We want to make sure everybody is safe, responsible and respectful to our visitors,” Tyler said.
In following the UMW creed, Tyler said it will be “a great day to be an eagle.”