As the Richmond football team warmed up for what would be their 68-21 win over Howard, other students were preparing for the game with beer, grills and cornhole.
The athletics department, with the help of various student organizations, has redesigned the student tailgates in the hopes of attracting more students.
“Since the end of last season we’ve worked with several student leaders from student government, Greek Life and our student marketing advisory council, and they’ve been telling us what can make the student tailgate experience more fun,” Scott Warner, the assistant athletic director for marketing and fan development, said.
Each week, the tailgate will feature free food, DJs and prizes. For the first home football game of the year on Saturday, Sept. 16, the athletics department provided free Qdoba and awarded a $1000 prize to the best student tailgate.
This weekend's tailgate before the game against Elon University featured free Bojangles and a cornhole tournament. The prizes for the winners of the tournament included a free pair of customized Nike ID shoes and a Y parking pass, which provides access to all student lots on campus for one week.
The new emphasis and promotion of student tailgating was well-received by students. On the 16th, most of the New Fraternity Row parking lot was filled with rows of tents, couches, grills, beer pong tables and cornhole boards.
“It’s our first time out here with the tents and the whole setup, and it’s been awesome so far,” Reece Syal, RC ’18, the president of Phi Gamma Delta, said Saturday. “The new tailgates sounded really exciting and we definitely wanted to be a part of it.”
The first tailgate of the year was well-attended compared with past tailgates, and by the time the Spiders ran onto the field under the smoke of fireworks, the new student section in Robins Stadium was packed with students who had made their way over from New Fraternity Row.
The idea of enhancing the student tailgate experience stemmed from the athletics department wanting to increase student attendance at football games, as recent seasons have included half-empty student sections, despite the team’s success.
“I think attending a football game is a social experience by nature, and the tailgate is a big part of that,” Warner said. “We’re providing an outlet for students to go have a good time and to party before the game, and we hope that experience at the tailgate translates into an even better experience at the game.”
On Sept. 16, 1,052 students attended the game, which was more than one-third of the undergraduate student body. Some of the students in attendance walked over from the tailgate, but because it was parent's weekend, many came separately with their families.
Warner said he hoped that the tailgates will bring students back into the stadium for the rest of the home games this season.
“The amount of students we had at the game was an unbelievable percentage when you consider our student body is just 2,900,” Warner said. “We hope that every student who came and had a good experience realizes that they have that opportunity every home football game.”
Syal said he thought the tailgate strategy worked.
“I think we’ll definitely keep coming out here, it’s a great opportunity to get everyone together,” Syal said.
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