Jungle tailgate off to a slow start

MSA plans further promotion for the university-sponsored event.

The Missouri Students Association welcomed fewer students to The Jungle on Saturday than had been anticipated.

The tailgate, MU’s first university-sponsored lot for pregame gathering, opened at 2:30 p.m., prior to MU's football home opener against McNeese State.

Ben Hansen, MSA Department of Student Activities director, was one of the students responsible for planning the event.

"It's a university-sponsored event," Hansen said. "We're spending money on the event for hiring police, creating a perimeter, more or less, having reservations. So this is the first official student tailgate that actually has infrastructure."

According to estimates from MSA, The Jungle was only expected to fill 20 percent of the lot. Hansen said the low turnout wasn't a problem for MSA.

"We want to test it out and see how it goes to begin with," Hansen said. "It's to our advantage to have fewer people come than for it to be so overwhelming that we can't even control it."

Hansen said about 200 students attended the event, and out of the approximately 50 spots available, 10 were filled.

Aside from MSA, five student organizations reserved spots at the tailgate: Tiger's Lair, The Residence Halls Association, The Student Bar Association, The Maneater, KCOU/88.1 FM and Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. The MU Police Department was also on hand, with one to two officers on bicycle stationed at the lot throughout the hours leading up to the game.

RHA Programming Coordinator Natasha Desai said the event was a great way for students to get into the mood for the game.

"It's a cool idea to gather a lot of students together from different organizations and be able to have them all in one place to kind of emphasize the game day spirit," Desai said.

MSA President Tim Noce said The Jungle was created in order to compensate for the troubles MU students had establishing a tailgating spot in the past. Previous unofficial tailgates, such as Frat Pit and Reactor Field, were shut down due to safety issues.

Noce said the problems that arose at Reactor Field motivated MSA to establish an official tailgate for students.

"That was really the spark that lit the flame for the student government," Noce said "When that was shut down, it was a huge area for all sorts of students, and no student was involved in the conversation of shutting it down."

With more than 80 percent of the lot vacant, The Jungle seemed empty compared to surrounding fraternity and alumni tailgates. Hansen said the low attendance was a result of the event’s marketing not being the main priority for the first game of the season.

"Up until now we've been spending our time trying to build a sound infrastructure, a solid event that we can handle," Hansen said. "Since we've been spending so much time on that, we haven't had as much time to market the event for the first game."

Noce said MSA is planning to improve communication for the event in order to increase attendance.

"I think the bottom line is we need to do a better job communicating," Noce said. "That's what we need to do to make the event better. I heard a lot of myths that people asked me about the tailgate. Some people said, 'Oh, I can't drink there,' but that's obviously not true."

Hansen is also aiming to improve attendance for The Jungle.

"We're looking at in what ways can we make the event more accessible," Hansen said. "By that I'm referring to possibly allowing one vehicle inside the lot per group as a viable alternative to having an unloading zone, and also exploring the possibility of increasing the number of wristbands we give away per group."

Despite the slow start, Noce said he would like to see The Jungle become a mainstay at MU.

"My vision is, I want to come here 10 years from now and have it be the place that students want to go on game day and be the place where alumni want to say, 'Oh, this is the place where I was as a student,'" Noce said. "I'd like eventually for it to become a campus tradition."

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