Under new rules, the tailgating goes on at Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club
Tailgating, grilling and lawn games went on as in years past. Friends enjoyed drinks and laughs. Parents introduced their children to the tradition of Michigan football.
In many ways this was like any other football Saturday at the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club. Except for the new rules governing tailgaters.
In the past, after paying their $40 fee, tailgaters could park wherever they wanted. One tailgater could arrive early to save spaces for later-arriving friends.
Parking supervisor Eric Hall describes the old parking situation as "chaos." Larry Eiler, parking director and board member of the Golf and Outing Club, called it "haphazard."
But certain campers call it "tradition," which is why Eiler's e-mail has been flooded with complaints since announcing changes to the club's parking schematic in June.
Still, that anger didn't translate into reduced business for Golf and Outing. Eiler said the lot reached capacity and closed its doors by 1:45 p.m. for a 3:30 game.
A new day
"All vehicles will be directed by the parking supervisors to the section they will occupy," reads the Ann Arbor Golf and Outing Club's statement on its new rules for tailgaters, handed out to patrons as they paid the parking fee. "Supervisors will open one section at a time, and direct vehicles to that section until it is filled. Due to safety concerns, traffic flow and crowd control, we no longer allow group parking at a favorite spot."
While admitting that the club could park upwards of 2,000 vehicles under the new rules - it could only fit about 1,600 before - Eiler said that the tipping point for the rule change came last year in several instances when ambulances had difficulty reaching tailgaters in need of medical attention.
Some campers regarded that reasoning as illegitimate. "If I'm going to pay $40 to park," said Ron Tyler, who's been coming to the site for five years, "I should be able to park where I want.
"You're telling me an ambulance can get through this?" he asked, pointing to lawn games in the aisle between two camp sites.
Scooter Esterline, who said that he arrived with a group of 50 campers, said that he'll be taking his group and his business elsewhere in the future. "We've been coming out here for a few years now. The old setup was just fine. Why change now?" he asked, noting that parking at the University of Michigan Golf Course next door is $10 cheaper.
Joe Schwartz, another longtime tailgater at the Golf and Outing site, took a different view. He said his group met up and his house and drove in together to be able to park near one another. "It's different from past years, but I don't see a reason to go elsewhere," he said.
"In a few weeks, none of this will even matter," said Ken Berry-Hill, a season-ticket holder. "All I care about is that Michigan gets back to a bowl game."
James David Dickson reports on human interest stories for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com, or (734) 623-2532.