Admitting they “made some mistakes” at the football home opener, University of Iowa officials said Thursday they will tweak some tailgating procedures for a more fan-friendly environment and quicker entry into Kinnick Stadium.
The refinements to the new tailgating rules are based on feedback from hundreds of fans and internal discussions among UI officials after last Saturday’s home opener, officials said.
The UI received substantial feedback, and angry fans took to online message boards to say they thought police were overzealous in their efforts to crack down on illegal or unsafe tailgating. Many fans also were upset about the long lines to get into the stadium, as security searched blankets, water bottles and bags.
“We as a university listened to the feedback we received … and made what we think will be appropriate changes,” Rick Klatt, associate athletics director, said. “The best way to describe what we’re going to be concentrating on Saturday is being more fan-friendly, and then doing what we said we would do from the beginning, those goals have not changed.”
In announcing the new “Think Before You Drink” initiative last month, UI officials said their goal was to crack down on unsafe and illegal tailgating — the “knuckleheads” who disrupt the gameday environment for others.
But many fans said police went beyond that at the first game last weekend, when 146 people were ticketed for alcohol-related violations, including 117 open container violations, 12 minor in possession tickets, and five citations for consuming alcohol in a public place.
”There was so much anger out there, so much confusion,” UI graduate Dirk Keller, 54, an Iowa City resident who has attended every home game since 1977, said. “We knew right away, OK it’s a witch hunt.”
The tweaks announced by UI officials likely will help speed entry into Kinnick, but Keller wonders if the changes will impact what he called rude and overbearing attitudes of some of the officers. The police behavior he saw happened in a family-friendly RV lot, with lots of children and little wild tailgating, Keller said.
“It made us feel very unwelcome, very unwanted,” he said.
The refinements announced Thursday include the addition of an extra hour — from two to three hours — for post-game tailgating for 11 a.m. kickoffs. That does not impact this week’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff versus Iowa State.
There also will be a more fan-friendly approach to those who are tailgating responsibly, and added security check points to get fans into the stadium quicker, officials said. Bags and water will still be inspected, and the far left side of every gate will be an express lane for fans who enter the stadium with no bags, containers or water bottles. Water must be sealed and in a clear bottle — limit of 32 ounces per fan — and food is limited to a one-gallon plastic bag.
Admitting that mistakes were made last week, UI Athletics Director Gary Barta said in a statement the goals remain the same: reduce the over-the-top alcohol abuse by some and maintain a terrific tailgate environment.
“We know that 95 percent of fans attending Hawkeye games act responsibly, and we greatly appreciate that,” Barta said in the statement.