Student section at the Stony Brook Football 2019 home opener on Aug. 29. This year Stony Brook University designated the Gym Road parking lot as the tailgating space for Sunday, Oct. 5’s homecoming football game. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University designated the Gym Road parking lot as the tailgating space for Sunday, Oct. 5’s homecoming football game, according to an email sent to The Statesman on Sept. 22.

“After meeting with Alumni Events, Campus Security and Athletics, we were able to identify the Gym Road parking lot as designated space for student tailgating for the Homecoming game this year,” Interim Associate Dean of Students, Jeffery A. Barnett, said. “We met with student leaders and got their input and feedback and all agreed this a viable solution for this year.”

The university’s decision comes as students and alumni express rising discontent over their inability to tailgate in the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium parking lot, which is where Homecoming tailgates traditionally occur. This year, the stadium parking lot is being occupied by the Homecoming BBQ, which is run by the Stony Brook University Alumni Association. A petition demanding that the tailgate be returned to the stadium parking lot, originally posted online on Tuesday, Sept. 17, amassed almost 1,200 signatures as of Sunday, Sept. 22, with a goal of 5,000.

“Homecoming is an event that happens every year and it is a tradition that students wait eagerly for,” the petition reads. “It has become an important facet to student life at Stony Brook University. We are requesting, to the parties involved, that tailgating remains the way that it is and student priority is taken into account before all else.”

Though numerous students and organizations have claimed that their attempts to obtain a stadium parking permit have failed, Stony Brook Athletics stated that parking pass purchases are not being denied.

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“We have the parking passes available for the students for every home game,” Mike Desrochers, assistant director of ticket operations, said. “We’re going to have a designated area for them for Homecoming. It’ll be a different area than where they normally would be for the rest of the games. They’re just going to have a different location for Homecoming, but we still have areas for them to tailgate in.”

Historically, student clubs and Greek life organizations have purchased passes for parking spots in the student parking lot of Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, where they would tailgate. The traditional pass system allowed for a person to bring up to two cars with designated spots for homecoming. This year, parking permits will continue to be issued even as the location changes to the Gym Road lot.

Map of West Campus, with the Gym Road parking lot circled in red. Stony Brook University designated the Gym Road parking lot as the tailgating space for Sunday, Oct. 5’s homecoming football game.PHOTO CREDIT:STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY

“We also agreed that student parking permits for the Homecoming game will be issued at no cost and we are working with students to identify additional programming elements to add for an enhanced student experience,” Barnett said. “Students interested in securing a permit for the Gym Road lot for the Homecoming game on Oct. 5 should call the ticket office at 631-632-WOLF or stop by the Ticket Office located in the Island Federal Arena lobby.”

The Homecoming BBQ is advertised as an event featuring “unlimited” barbecue and non-alcoholic drinks, food trucks, a photo booth and activities such as a bounce house and giant Jenga. Tickets can either be purchased for the barbecue alone or in a package including a ticket to the Homecoming football game. Early registration prices range from $10 to $35.

This type of ticket package is not unprecedented for Homecoming, but the decision to relocate the BBQ to the students’ prime tailgating spot has drawn ire.

“Homecoming tailgate at the stadium lot is a tradition students look forward to, both current and alumni, and to take that away like this has angered a lot of students,” Zee Mustafa, a senior psychology and political science major and the president of Sigma Phi Delta, said prior to the university’s update. “The atmosphere elsewhere isn’t the same, and Stony’s decision to do this is going to bite them as a lot of students simply are not interested in Homecoming anymore.”

Prior to the posting of the petition, rumblings about the situation had been circulating on social media, most notably on Twitter where linebacker Victor Ochi, a Stony Brook Football alumnus and one of three Seawolves to play in the NFL, expressed his outrage.

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“This is arguably the highest point in history for Stony Brook Athletics and the administration have no idea what to do with it,” Ochi said in a thread of tweets on Sept. 12. “How do you ban student tailgating in the stadium parking lots? Why are they trying their hardest to disconnect with the students; is student participation not a priority? You expect students to show love but you boot them out the lots and say nothing?”

Ochi, Stony Brook’s all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss, continued, “All this just to tax the community for higher tickets prices. Continue to sabotage the biggest money generator in athletics history. Then they wonder why they can’t hold onto staff and alumni. Years and years of people putting their hearts into the school just for idiots to s— on it. What a joke!”

Stony Brook University’s annual homecoming football game, known as Wolfstock, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Oct. 5, during the Stony Brook football team’s game against the James Madison Dukes, who is ranked No. 2 in the Stats FCS Poll as of Sept. 22.

Homecoming traditionally provides the largest attendance numbers for the Stony Brook football season. The seven most attended games in program history have all been Homecoming games, and last year, Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium set an attendance record when 12,701 people witnessed the Seawolves’ 52-14 blowout over the Rhode Island Rams.

“I’m not happy at all,” Mustafa said. “The school hasn’t really said anything about the LIRR lot or the arena lot as alternative venues either, so not sure what’s going on.”

The administration hopes that labeling the Gym Road parking lot as Homecoming’s official tailgating space will calm students’ fears about potentially losing the ability to engage in pregame festivities.

“As Homecoming event organizers looked to reconfigure the area in which guests can comfortably congregate and enjoy food and refreshments in the main stadium lot, students expressed concern that their Homecoming tailgating tradition was at risk,” Barnett said. “We immediately sought to identify an alternate location near the stadium.”

With the game only weeks away, Stony Brook might have to contend with dissatisfied students in order to ensure that attendance is high as the university’s football team takes on a notoriously challenging opponent.

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