COLUMBIA — Several Columbia businesses would be affected on SEC game days by Tiger Town, the proposed downtown venue for fan tailgates and celebration.
Streets would be closed for three to four hours before each game and for about two hours after, according to Greg Steinhoff, one of the three businessmen who originally proposed Tiger Town.
The proposed area consists of the five to six blocks north of Elm Street. Fans would congregate at the intersection of Elm and Eighth streets, where the nine-block Tiger Trail to the stadium begins.
"We're being strategic to pick an area that has minimal businesses affected," Steinhoff said. There are fewer than 10 businesses in the proposed region, and the Tiger Town committee has been meeting with them.
Street closures can be negative for banks and cleaners, whose customers then struggle to get in. But that's not the case for restaurants — for them, street closures mean being open in a hub of thousands of visiting fans. This played a role in selecting the location.
"We've worked hard to minimize any negative kind of impact and to try to create as positive an environment for businesses as possible," Steinhoff said.
At Monday night's City Council meeting, Mayor Bob McDavid said the proposal "requires a lot of private sector coordination along with the city." He also said that although it's too early to vote on the proposal, it "seems to have a lot of momentum."
Similar to The Grove at University of Mississippi or The Coop at University of South Carolina, Tiger Town would be a site for vendor booths, restaurants and radio stations to provide entertainment before and after the four SEC home games.
"It's a gathering point for fans," Steinhoff said. This includes visiting fans, who would tailgate "on the periphery."
Steinhoff, along with fellow businessmen Rick Means and Bob Gerding, first proposed the idea to the council on Jan. 10 and now chair the Tiger Town committee. When the friends were in Norman, Okla., for the Missouri game at Oklahoma last season, they decided that if Missouri were to join the SEC, it would need a new venue for the thousands of visitors to Columbia.
"This is our only time to have a first impression, so we want to go all out, make something unique," Steinhoff said.
The SEC requires that 7,000 stadium seats be reserved for visitors, or about three times the visitor turnout Missouri had in the Big 12, Steinhoff said. Many Columbia hotels are already booked for the SEC game weekends, he said.
"This is our chance to show our beautiful downtown and our beautiful campus," Steinhoff said.
The proposal includes a designated "family area" near Stankowski Field, four blocks down the Tiger Trail and halfway to the stadium. This area would be alcohol-free and offer games and face painting.
Tiger Town would also be the setting for a Friday night event before an SEC game, such as a concert or pep rally.