UK students worry that baseball tailgating may never be the same


Members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity tailgate outside Kentucky Proud Park for the first Kentucky baseball home game on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Rick Childress

For students in past years a trip to a UK home baseball game meant a trip to the Cliff—a ramshackle tailgating zone beyond the outfield wall of the old Cliff Hagan baseball stadium that became wildly popular amongst students.

From the vantage point of the Cliff students could see the baseball game and were free to use the area just like any other tailgating zone. For big games, the area would draw hundreds of students.

Now, with the opening of a brand new baseball stadium in Kentucky Proud Park and UK’s past attempts at regulating near-campus student tailgating in Fall 2018, many students are wondering: Will UK’s baseball tailgating culture ever be the same?

“The Cliff was a very unique thing,” said UK Athletics spokesperson Guy Ramsey. “It’s not something that we set out to build. It’s not something that we set out to create. It just sort of happened. Those are the best things, the things that are organic.”

Ramsey said the new stadium poses challenges to students actually being able to recreate the Cliff.

For one thing the Cliff was technically outside of the old ballpark, so anyone would be allowed to drive in vehicles, set up speaker systems, grill out and drink alcohol as if it were a tailgate. The new Kentucky Proud Park has seating and walkway space that completely envelopes the field so there’s really no space where that could happen. If students want to see the game, they have to be inside the facility.

Nonetheless, student buzz in a potential tailgate spot surged before the beginning of the season. Ramsey said that student leaders, many in fraternities, reached out to UK Athletics officials to try to start a conversation about a possible tailgate spot near the stadium.

Ramsey said that for now, any registered student organization can email [email protected] to reserve tailgate spots near the stadium in the parking lots next to the Bell Soccer Complex. Anyone can also tailgate in the parking lots around Kroger Field. Tailgating zones open four hours prior to game time.

Ramsey said he hoped that a “signature element” of the new stadium will come about naturally, just as it did with the Cliff.

A few student groups tried their best to recreate the Cliff when Kentucky Proud Park opened last week on Feb. 26. A smattering of students congregated around a tailgate near the stadium. Many of them were less than impressed.

Andrew Edgington, a junior, said the location was “lackluster.” From their spot in the parking lot, they couldn’t see the scoreboard, hear the announcer and struggled to keep up with the game.

After the game, the Barstool UK Twitter account, which has close to 18,000 followers called for students to return to the Cliff instead of tailgate at the new stadium.

“With the sombering and sobering (literally) news confirmed that there is nowhere to tailgate at the new baseball stadium, I believe all students should just tailgate at the Cliff for every game in memoriam of the only good thing UK had going #RIPCliff,” the account wrote in a Tweet that had over 500 likes.

“We love the way that it was before, we love this new stadium—it’s awesome, it’s great to have—we just have to include the students too,” said sophomore Trevin Cox who was also at the tailgate.

Some at the tailgate were upset over UK’s move toward last fall’s Gameday Zone—a fenced-in tailgating zone specifically for UK students where alcohol was limited. The zone was introduced by UK the university better enforce its alcohol policy by pushing on-campus student tailgating into an enclosed and more easily monitored setting. The Gameday Zone saw relatively low attendance for much of the year.

Ramsey said that a move toward a similar tailgating zone for baseball games was “not imminent” and added that other officials on campus outside of UK Athletics would make that decision.

Student feedback will be crucial to making sure that the baseball tailgating experience is appealing to students, Ramsey said. Baseball tailgating zones could look much different by the end of the season.

“I think the idea is that we see how things shake out at Kentucky Proud Park and see where it goes from there,” Ramsey said. “It’ll be a little while before biggest games, best weather and largest crowds.”

Feedback can be tweeted directly at UK Athletics or can emailed to [email protected].