COLUMBIA — MU's new student-only tailgating spot didn't exactly live up to its name Saturday afternoon.
"The Jungle" avoided the problems that resulted in the closure of previous student hotspots Reactor Field and Frat Pit, such as fighting and underage drinking, but it failed to draw much of a crowd. Vast sections of the lot at the corner of Rollins Street and Tiger Avenue were unoccupied throughout the afternoon leading up to MU’s home football game against McNeese State.
Of the 54 available spots in the lot, 13 were reserved by six organizations, said Ben Hansen, director of the Missouri Students Association's Department of Student Activities. The Student Bar Association, with around 50 members present, had by far the largest showing.
The lot has several restrictions, including bans on vehicles, underage drinking and hard liquor.
Because the tailgate was an official university event, five police officers were assigned to the lot, MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer said.
A few blocks away, a noticeably different scene existed at the tailgate held at the Newman Center, where a large crowd and dozens of vehicles filled the parking lot.
While many students at the center didn’t like the restrictions of The Jungle, a majority interviewed hadn't heard of the new lot.
Several students who knew of the lot, including senior Sam Waters, 22, had little knowledge about it.
“I don’t have a clue what the rules are,” he said.
Others said the rules at The Jungle were too harsh.
“I heard there’s strict enforcement by police and you have to be 21 to get in,” said MU junior Maria Chandler, 21. “I have a lot of friends who aren’t 21. Why would they go there? Too strict.”
Senior Matt Hickey, 22, said he felt the police presence was a strong deterrent.
“It boils down to cops being there,” Hickey said. "Even if you’re of age, it’s uncomfortable to be around cops when you’re drinking.”
While officers aren't stationed at tailgating venues other than The Jungle, they do patrol the other lots, Weimer said.
Tim Noce, president of the Missouri Students Association, said students were using the lot’s regulations as an excuse not to come.
“A majority of students should not have a problem with having a few drinks,” Noce said. “If (this system) works at Ole Miss, the best tailgate in America, it can work here.”
Back at The Jungle, law student Shawn Hoover, 28, was unsure of the impact the regulations had on the sparsely populated lot. He said he thought most organizations were just unaware of the new tailgate lot.
“We didn’t know about it until Thursday,” he said.
Noce acknowledged that many students and organizations may not know about the The Jungle, but said misinformation has spread regarding its rules. Some students he talked to were under the impression that alcohol wasn’t even allowed, he said.
“We need to communicate better,” Noce said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Waters, a fraternity member, said a potential reason for The Jungle’s initial struggles was that Greek organizations are not allowed in.
Noce said the Office of Greek Life, which governs fraternities and sororities on campus, said it has a policy preventing Greek organizations from reserving a spot at The Jungle.
However, Noce said he isn't familiar with that rule.
“As leader of my fraternity chapter, *Lambda Chi Alpha, I’ve looked into (Interfraternity Council) policy, and I haven’t found where it says we can’t do this,” he said.
Despite the low turnout at the new tailgate spot, Hoover and several law students said they were enjoying themselves and planned to come for every home game.
“It’s not crowded," Hoover said. "There’s no rowdiness. I’m happy.”
Hoover also said turnout might depend on the Tigers' opponent from week to week.
“It’s McNeese State,” he said. “If it was Oklahoma, you’d have a different story.”
But Noce, who has been working on the The Jungle for a little more than a year, still showed some disappointment.
“I hope the lot picks up,” he said.