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MU to cut back on tailgaters' time at Reactor Field

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 | 5:46 p.m. CDT; updated 9:09 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

COLUMBIA—Tailgating is as much a part of MU football as Truman the Tiger.  But the tradition will be cut short for some this Homecoming as a popular tailgating locale's opening is delayed.

Reactor Field will not be open to tailgating until 2:30 p.m. Saturday because of recent "inappropriate behavior," athletic director Mike Alden said in an open letter to fans posted on the athletic department's Web site on Tuesday. That gives tailgaters three hours before MU kicks off against Colorado at 5:30 p.m.

Donors' lots will open as usual at 8 a.m. and the other general public lot, at Maryland Avenue Garage, will open at noon.

Representatives from athletics, campus and MU police met last week to figure out what to do about what he called "unruly behavior" of some tailgaters this fall, athletics spokesman Chad Moller said.

"This was a general response to how tailgating (at Reactor Field) has gone this season," he said. MU had received several complaints from fans about the tailgating activities at Reactor Field, Moller said.

There was "minimal activity" from a minority of people who were not following the rules, and many tailgaters behave responsibly, but the security issues warranted action, game operations director Colleen Lamond said.

One recent incident resulted in an arrest at a Reactor tailgate on October 11, when MU played Oklahoma State, said MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer. When police tried to break up a fight, Weimer said, one tailgater pushed an officer into a tent pole. He was arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault on a law enforcement officer. Another person involved in the fight was issued a summons on suspicion of peace disturbance by fighting.

Last fall, campus officials decided to close down another popular tailgating spot, dubbed "Frat Pit," at the corner of Providence Road and Champions Drive because of large crowds and widespread underage drinking.

Some of those problems now exist at other locations, including Reactor Field, Lamond said.

"It's clear to see that the trend is that sororities and fraternities have moved into the general public areas in the closest vicinity to the stadium" she said.

The athletic department wants to encourage people to tailgate, as long as it's done in a responsible manner, Lamond said.

The decision sparked a great deal of discussion on tigerboard.com, an online forum for MU sports fans. Many were upset by the limits on tailgating.

Andrew Rhodes, a 2006 MU graduate, said he comes in from St. Louis for most MU home games and often tailgates at Reactor Field. He said he thinks it's a mistake to limit all tailgating at Reactor.

"To completely restrict tailgating ruins the spirit behind college football Saturdays and Homecoming in particular, " he said. "Tailgating is meant as a time to cook game food and drink some beers with friends over the course of an entire day."

Others, such as Jason Lewis, said they see the motivation behind MU's decision.

"I completely understand where they're coming from. It's their job to keep people safe," he said.

Lewis, who didn't graduate from MU but has been a lifelong fan, makes the five-hour drive to Columbia from his home in Nebraska for one home game every year. Now he and his friends are forced to scramble to find a place to tailgate all day, which is especially difficult coming from out of town , he said.

"It's not just kids that go the games and it's not just donors," Lewis said. "It's regular people, too."

 To deal with the influx of traffic for the 2:30 p.m. opening of Reactor, there will be an increased number of parking attendants and an additional entrance, Lamond said.


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