New student tailgate zone to open for 2017 football season

Saturday’s home football game will kickoff the season with a new team and a new tailgate zone, too. It’s called the Student Fan Zone, and it will provide students with what other football tailgates usually lack: shade, water, food, picnic tables and real bathrooms.

After a controversial policy change halfway through last year’s football season, Hard Rock Stadium instituted later tailgate start times and a ban on loudpeakers and DJs. Student Government and the Dean of Students office felt the university should do more to enhance the tailgating experience while ensuring students’ safety.

The result was that students started taking their pre-game celebrations off Hard Rock property, and there was a spike in incidents during tailgates.

“This all stemmed from the last season changes that the Hard Rock Stadium had made to the tailgating rules,” said Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate David Mejia, who presented the bill for the Student Zone.

During one of the games in the 2016 football season, Mejia said the stadium ran out of paramedics because so many students suffered from complications from being outside in the heat.

“People were not making it to the game,” said Student Government President Adrian Nuñez.

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely put together a Tailgate task force in response, and that group of students and faculty came up with the idea for a separate, shaded zone. President Frenk supplied the $50,000 for the project and Whitely helped move the project along, over to Student Activities and Student Organizations, which worked out the logistics with the Athletics department and the stadium.

Starting from the opening game on Sept. 2 against Bethune-Cookman, a designated Student Fan Zone with food and games will be open outside the stadium, in the covered north-northwest plaza.

Nuñez said the zone is meant to help students be safe during the tailgates, whether it means stopping by to drink water and use the restrooms before entering the stadium or grabbing some catered food before going to other tailgate stations. No alcohol is allowed in the Student Fan Zone, but students can flow in and out of it as they choose.

The zone will open up 2 ½ to three hours before kickoff at all home games.

Featured photo courtesy of University of Miami Student Government.