Entertainment » Jim Harris

Stadium addresses tailgating mess

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Something seemed amiss when I glanced at my University of Arkansas football scholarship parking tag for the two War Memorial Stadium games this fall. My lot number had changed from 4 to 10, and according to the back of the tag, Lot 10 was on the far side of UAMS, off Cedar and 7th streets. Our Lot 4 spot had been just across Fair Park, south of the park pavilion and north of the archery range. The tag didn’t show any scholarship parking on the golf course or west of Fair Park anymore.

All was revealed Monday at the park pavilion by Gary Smith, War Memorial Stadium commissioner. After the craziness of last fall’s parking and tailgating setup, which had many fans upset at not getting their long-held tailgating spots on the golf course, the commission, with the help of folks like Wendy Saer who have put on Riverfest and the Komen run, came up with a new plan. It’s an improvement, though some are likely to debate it for several reasons, starting with higher prices.

All the UA scholarship parking has moved east of the stadium. The golf course will now serve as parking for RVs in the old Lot 4, and the rest will be for tailgaters and general parking. People planning their tailgates can call the stadium office and reserve a spot for the two games at $120 ($60 per game, sold as a two-game package). They can choose from what’s available, including lining up along the 18th fairway, as so many like to do — and as I and several friends did last year for a terrific tailgate before the UA-Mississippi State game. No longer will tailgaters have to line up on Fair Park and Markham in the wee hours for the 7 a.m. opening of the park; the spaces will be reserved, and friends can secure spaces together for that mega-neighborhood-like party.

Only, you have until Oct. 20 to reserve one of the 400 spots (and this year’s tailgaters will have first-right-of-refusal to renew next year). After that, they become part of the general parking, of which Smith and the commission hope there will be enough to take care of the 54,000 folks attending the game. General parking for each game has risen to $20.

With construction at UAMS and the Arkansas Health Department, about 2,000 public parking spaces have been lost east of the stadium. Smith says the golf course has accommodated close to 5,000 cars.

Fans with large cookers will be able to reserve one of 20 spots around the park pavilion for $120. Corporate tailgating will be handled around the tennis courts.

Scholarship parkers will have new entrances on the east side to enter the spaces, and Fair Park will be less of the Ventura Freeway traffic jam it’s been in the past, with only general parking routed that direction off Interstate 630.

Next up for the stadium commission is another problem: accommodating the extra thousands who may want to see Razorback football here but can’t get a ticket outside of a corner endzone seat. With 74,000-plus attending now in Fayetteville, it would seem an expansion here is in order, even for just two games a year. There’s no money to do that, of course. But, according to stadium manager Charlie Staggs, the stadium is looking at a plan for skyboxes, with the architectural company HKS, who designed Dickey-Stephens Park, coming up with diagrams and plans to look over early next month.

As for my Lot 10 space, does anybody need it? It’s not much farther from the stadium than my house, so I’ll walk to the game, or hope that I’m invited to a friend’s tailgate.

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