Major changes to tailgating

By Brian Shlonsky

As UK changed who would be coaching football games for the 2010 season, Lexington officials changed how fans would be tailgating those games.

Officials met Thursday outside of Commonwealth Stadium to discuss changes the Game Day Task Force made in parking, safety and tailgating for UK home football games this season.

“Everyone that comes here on Saturday is going to have a great time,” Mayor Jim Newberry said. “And at the same time, we’re going to make sure that our neighborhoods are well protected and everybody has a safe day at the game.”

A communications service new to this year called GuestAssist will allow fans to report behavioral problems and disturbances via text messaging.  By texting CATS to 78247 with a message and seat location, fans can communicate with stadium operations personnel without leaving their seats.

Other changes beginning in 2010 state that no tow-behind trailers will be allowed in stadium parking lots without a permit, and no motorized vehicles, including golf carts and scooters, will be allowed anywhere in the stadium complex, except those used by individuals with disabilities.

“With the trailers, were trying to make sure we have plenty of parking for everybody, plus it goes back to (the fact that) things could be hidden in a trailer that could be harmful,” said UK Police Chief Joe Monroe. “We’re trying to make sure we take care of all the safety measures in and around the stadium on game days.”

Changes in tailgating were made stating that vehicles parking on Cooper Drive may not arrive and set up before noon on Friday, and two vehicles will be allowed to park parallel to each other, but not in ditches, flood areas, on sidewalks or other marked off areas.

Monroe said the operations manual for game days includes more than 150 pages, and it takes over 250 public safety personnel in a collaborative effort from state, local and federal officials to ensure a positive game day experience.

“We start planning for this operation as soon as the football season ends (from the previous year) and we have a plan that we have been continually evolving for the last four years, building upon it, adding new things, things that don’t work, we take them out,” Monroe said.

Also included in this year’s plan is the banning of backpacks worn by guests into the stadium. Monroe said backpacks were viewed as a potential safety hazard where contraband such as alcohol and weapons could be illegally smuggled past the gates.

UK President Lee Todd stressed the impact UK athletic events have on the city of Lexington.

“We want individuals (at the game) to respect the city, and respect our neighbors and respect our campus,” Todd said. “We want the story from the game to be about the players on the field, not the adjacent area.”