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Can tailgating help turn Portland State into Boise State?
Nigel Burton will have his hands full coaching the Portland State Vikings, and fans will have their hands full of beer and bratwurst now that tailgating has a home at Vikings games.
It’s hard to be Portland State.
Oregon has become the Mark Zuckerberg of college football – innovative, moneyed and occasionally in legal trouble – and Oregon State draws enough interest that even players nabbed for being minors in possession is big news.
Meanwhile, the Vikings – who might be causing interesting trouble of their own, if anyone bothered to pay attention – toil in a soccer stadium wedged into a city seemingly more into Earth First! than first downs.
But when Portland State kicks off Sept. 3 against Southern Oregon, it finally will have something it’s never had outside what is now called Jeld-Wen Field: tailgating.
“Long overdue,” said Bill Hanson, a linebacker on the June Jones-quarterbacked teams of the mid-1970s and a longtime fan. “The problem was, to my knowledge, they couldn’t find a consistent place to put it near the stadium.”
Now tailgating will have a home in the parking lot near the U.S. Bank building on 20th Ave., across from the renovated stadium. A season pass to the lot is $250, and if any spots are left over they’ll go for $50, which includes one space for a vehicle and one for tailgating.
Vikings games often have had street fair-type activities on the closed intersection of 20th and Morrison streets. A flyer for the upcoming season’s “tailgate” party in that area promises food, music, live TV, Voodoo Doughnuts, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and “inflatables.” (Lest you think it’ll be that kind of party, no, it’s not that kind of inflatable.)
But Darlene Brady, who worked for three decades in the PSU athletic department, said people often asked when Portland State would get real, four-wheeled tailgating.
The Vikings had it twice, temporarily – when they moved to Hillsboro Stadium while the former Civic Stadium was renovated, including last season. Pregame-loving fans embraced the extra parking space, firing up grills and pitching shade tents.
“It was much more pleasurable than having to do it in the street like we’ve done it for years in front of the Kingston,” Brady said of the popular sports bar.
Hanson is eager to start a tradition outside Jeld-Wen. He plans to park next to a friend and fellow alumnus who’s converting an ambulance into a green and white tailgate-mobile.
“My dream here is that downtown catches on and we become an equal with Boise (State),” Hanson said. “In terms of their downtown, in terms of national exposure, they just get it.”
To rival the Broncos’ program’s remarkable rise, Portland State would have to climb to the Football Bowl Subdivision (from the Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA) and plow many more millions into its athletic department, for starters.
But that transformation could start, Hanson said, with one parking lot devoted to tailgating.
“If they could start to string this together for a few years,” he said, “it will build and build.”
By Rachel Bachman, The Oregonian