An estimated 28,000 New Mexico Lobo Football tailgaters are expected to surround Dreamstyle University Stadium to celebrate the University of New Mexico's 92nd Homecoming game.
With all the fiesta and fun at Lobo tailgate parties, these events also come with safety and security measures. Depending on the game, a regular home season football crowd may range between 18,000 to 25,000 potential tailgaters.
Assistant Athletic Director of Events Michael Haggerty said there will be numerous police agencies including: Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, New Mexico State Police, Rio Rancho Police Department, UNM Police Department and Securitas.
UNM Police Lieutenant Trace Peck said the authorities don’t want to alert criminals of their strengths and weaknesses through their police count. “It’s a tactical thing," he said. "We don’t want to say we have this many officers out there. We have a sufficient number of officers to keep the event safe."
However, there are 15,000 less football revelers than there were during the game against New Mexico State. Haggerty said the Aggie rivalry game is the largest every two years, as 35,000 tailgaters from around the state, particularly from Las Cruces, participate.
The increased tailgating numbers during the State game also increases the possibility of disputes, as a domestic violence dispute was reported by APD during the recent NMSU game. Peck said fighting generally occurs in the student section of the event. With Homecoming, it is a different culture, a different mindset in celebrating football, according to Peck.
“It is the game that doesn’t give us the most problems," Peck said. "A lot of the Greek life is involved in the festivities for Homecoming, so they are not back there drinking."
The Lobo tailgate is divided up into zones: the student tailgate area, the howl zone, the RV parking area and the different parking lots surrounding the venue.
With the overflow of fans looking to park outside of the event, neighborhoods aren’t the best option. Haggarty said if tailgaters don’t live in the stadium area or are a guest of a resident, then then they could be cited or towed by the City of Albuquerque parking enforcement. “They will be issuing tickets and, if they have to, booting vehicles,” he said.
There were a few criminal reports at the State game, such as burglary, but the majority of police calls were related to alcohol or health concerns, according to Peck.
“We have over 70 calls, medical calls, so we were quite busy…binge drinking in that south grass area,” Peck said, adding there will be more staffing the grassy area more and rotating officers will provide better coverage.
Peck said the best way to prevent health hazards while at the tailgate and game is to bring lots of water to the event. He said there are only a few incidents every year but doesn’t foresee any challenges now that the rival game has come and gone.
“We very seldom have more than one or two arrests the entire season…and now that we have made it through our New Mexico State game…we are pretty confident that we're not going to have any problems,” Peck said.
Scott Dotson, senior associate athletic director for facilities, said UNM will spend $2,000 on clean-up of this years’ Homecoming tailgate. Haggerty advises tailgate-goers to bring their own garbage bags.
Kickoff time is at 5 p.m. for the Lobo versus Air Force Homecoming game, and with it starting earlier, the tailgate party will likely kick off at around 2 p.m.
According to Haggerty, tailgaters are not allowed to save empty spaces for partiers who have not arrived yet. Haggerty suggests tailgaters who would like to have a good spot to arrive early, since gates open at 11 a.m.
There is more information at GoLobos.com on what to bring and not to bring to a Lobo tailgate.
Sherri Barth is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She contributes content for basketball, football, rugby and other sports. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.