It wasn’t just the score that had me disappointed after UNLV’s 30-27 triple-overtime loss to Minnesota in the Rebels’ August 30 opener. It was what preceded my alma mater’s defeat.
See, I have a special place in my heart for UNLV tailgates. As a young commuter school, UNLV doesn’t enjoy a stellar reputation for its campus life—students drive to class and drive home; Greek organizations don’t have deep roots (or chapter houses), and the football team is, well, I’ll let you fill in the blank. But even with a (mostly) losing squad, UNLV tailgates always delivered. Students, alumni and fans turned out in droves; fraternities and sororities mingled with prospective rushees; new friendships were formed via beer pong and buzzed conversation. The Rebel spirit was infectious, because it was everywhere, and as a transfer student doubtful his UNLV experience would compare to that of the then-PAC-10 school he left, these tailgates were a godsend. They were a special element of my UNLV experience.
So when I arrived to the game that day, I was sad to see the crowd at Star Nursery Field was less than half the size I remembered. In recent years the university has cracked down on pre-game merriment, citing safety concerns for tailgating patrons. “My major concern is the safety of our students and anybody attending the game,” says Juanita Fain, UNLV’s vice president for student affairs. “We just, as a university, felt like there was a liability we had to address.”
Tailgaters are now required to show game tickets at the gates and are restricted from carrying in any alcohol. Only pre-registered vehicles or those that pay a $40 day-of fee can do that. (By the way, that fee was only $10 in 2007.)
The new regulations and a $20 parking increase, first enacted during the 2010 season, have resulted in the division of tailgating. Those who don’t want to pay for the game or parking can still tailgate in the free lot on the south side of the field, but because of the gravel covering (not the safest for a round of dizzy bat) and dispersed setup, it hasn’t been widely attended or embraced. Star Nursery Field might be safer now, but it lacks the vibrancy I remember so fondly. Hopefully a winning season (or an on-campus move) will fix that soon.