As MU begins its transition into the Southeastern Conference, members of the Columbia community are hard at work to make SEC home football games more involved for Missouri fans as well as visiting fans.
Tiger Town is the name of the proposed venue for a pregame gathering before home football games next fall. The location approved Monday night by the Columbia City Council consists of five blocks on Eighth Street located between Elm Street and Broadway.
The council unanimously voted for the approval of not only blocking off these streets for the Tiger Town events, but also allowing an open-container policy for the venue.
“(Tiger Town organizers) have really done a very good job of getting approval of most of the businesses in the downtown area,” Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said. “As long as that’s done, in my mind I think it will be a great opportunity for the city.”
The council’s unanimously decided to approve the Tiger Town proposal because the event's organizers were able to seek a very high approval rating by downtown businesses in a survey they released earlier this month, Anthony said.
“The organizers have put a significant amount of time soliciting opinions from the businesses in the downtown area, which was a big concern for me, but when I saw their results, I was very satisfied and able to give them my vote,” Anthony said.
These surveys were released to all downtown businesses that are members of the Community Improvement District. The Tiger Town organizers were more than pleased with their results, Tiger Town organizer Bob Gerding said.
“We had a survey done by the CID, and 81 percent of all the businesses were supportive,” Gerding said. “So for the most part, the businesses are pretty on board, which makes us happy.”
One of those businesses, the Sub Shop, is the only food and beverage retailer located in the Tiger Town area. Sub Shop manager Scott Schulte said employees are very excited for the possible business they will receive from being open on game days.
“We have a chance to make good money while being a part of beginning of new traditions for the university, so that’s pretty exciting,” Schulte said.
Several SEC schools have traditions similar to Tiger Town, which is how Gerding and three other businessmen came up with the idea for it, Gerding said.
“When SEC fans travel to Columbia next fall, we want them to not only have fun while they are here, but we also want them to come back for games in later years, so that’s really where the idea came from,” Gerding said.
This event could potentially change in upcoming years, Gerding also said. In an earlier version of the Tiger Town proposal the organizers wanted to include Tiger Town as a place for postgame celebration, but they recently decided to limit it to pregame tailgating.
“We just decided that we were going to start with the pregame activities,” Gerding said. “Having it open for pregame, keeping it open during the game and then also for postgame — it really just seemed like too much to manage at the beginning.”
But Gerding said he did not rule out the possibility for postgame activities in the future. The Tiger Town organizers want to find out how much interest there is in Tiger Town and possibly make it bigger in future years, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to do something better, different and exciting here in Columbia — we just want to get off to the right start and really embrace this as we move to the SEC,” Gerding said.