OXFORD – The University of Mississippi may charge fees for tailgating spaces next year.
Dr. Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor, said that despite a stated Grove opening of 6 p.m. Fridays before home games, individuals and businesses this fall had begun claiming spaces in the Grove even before Friday classes had begun.
“They started coming in as early as 7 o’clock in the morning to get ‘their’ spaces,” Mullins said. Faculty and staff often found their vehicles blocked in by tent-laden trucks at lunch or at the end of the day. People often argued over spaces as well.
“Some of these tent companies are paid to get a particular spot, and so they’ve been really aggressive,” Mullins said.
Mullins said the university’s Gameday Committee will study the proposal and decide whether to recommend it to the Executive Council.
“Above all, this is about protecting our academic Fridays,” he said.
Tori Puckett of Oxford Catering, one of several companies that set up tents in the Grove for clients, said confllicts do occasionally happen.
“When you’re setting up, you’ll have people saying, ‘We always set up in this space,’” she said. “Our response is, ‘Well, we’ll move over a little, but the Grove is first-come, first-served.’”
Puckett said assigning tailgate spaces “would affect our business severely.
“People may call me in February to book a tailgate party, or they may call me two weeks before the game,” she said. “I could not give (the university) a guarantee of 20 spots for each game. Sometimes I have eight parties booked, and sometimes I have 20.” Most clients, she said, are people who attend only one or two games a year.
University Police Chief Calvin Sellers said commercial interests are much of the problem.
“They’ll come up there with a truckload of tents and equipment,” he said. “Until we remove that necessity to get there first, there are going to be problems.”
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.