This 'is not VEISHEA': How Ames is preparing for College GameDay's first visit
Game day improvements at Jack Trice Stadium led to this day
AMES — Let’s be clear. This is not VEISHEA.
It’s Cy-Hawk. It’s ESPN’s College GameDay in Ames for the first time.
“No thank you,” said Anthony Greiter of the ISU police department about those calling for Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State football game to be VEISHEA-like.
VEISHEA was — emphasis on was — Iowa State’s annual weeklong spring celebration, canceled after a riot in 2014.
Greiter, a police officer as well as the community outreach specialist, runs the @ISUPD Twitter account. And because he’s active on Twitter, he’s seen the calls to make GameDay a one-day VEISHEA experience.
“We were tagged in a lot of them and a lot of people have given us well wishes and have wished us the best of luck on Saturday,” he said. “Let me be clear, College GameDay coming to Ames is not VEISHEA. We as an Ames community would probably appreciate it if this were not a one-day VEISHEA.
“We want people to have a great time, don’t get me wrong, but we also want to showcase on College GameDay who we are as a community. In a sense this is a spectacle, but this spectacle should be a good representation of who we are every day, not just one day where everybody chooses to go wild.”
But this is big — a culmination and intersection of a lot of hard work and timing.
Jamie Pollard's vision
The ISU police department estimates there will be 100,000 additional people in Ames — 61,500 in the stands and another 40,000 tailgating around the stadium or hanging out in Ames trying to find a place to watch the game.
When athletics director Jamie Pollard took over in 2005, he had a vision of what Iowa State’s game day experience could be.
At the center was Jack Trice Stadium and surrounding it, parking lots and flat land as far as the eye could see.
“I had never been here for a game when I took over,” Pollard said. “I remember thinking, ‘The environment has the potential to be very Lambeau-like.’ It’s a small town with all of these flat parking lots all around the stadium where everybody can see the stadium.
“That was Lambeau Field in Green Bay at its purest. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we have so much potential. Our tailgating is going to be a huge asset for us.’”
So, he went to work improving the tailgating.
He started by talking with the ISU police department and then-Iowa State president Gregory Geoffroy about letting tailgaters tailgate longer.
They opened tailgate lots earlier — lots open at 5 a.m. this Saturday — they closed lots later, and if you came in an RV you could stay overnight from Friday to Saturday, as well as Saturday to Sunday.
Once he got tailgating to the level he wanted it to be, Pollard began to improve Jack Trice Stadium.
“When I got here, there were more port-a-potties in the south end zone than there were people in the south end zone stands,” Pollard said. “The south end zone was just bleachers with all kinds of port-a-potties. And by halftime, there were more people in line to the port-a-potties than there were people in the stands.”
Pollard worked on improving the concourses because “it was just a cluster.
“There weren’t a lot of people here, but you couldn’t have put many more people here because you couldn’t accommodate them.”
He continued by adding video boards to each end zone and, finally, he closed the stadium by adding the south end zone stands.
“We did things that were very fan-centric,” Pollard said. “This is what most people nationally are just starting to understand. We grew our attendance over the last eight or nine years in a time period when we weren’t very good, and the national trend of stadium attendance was trending down.
“We defied logic.”
The Cy-Hawk game this year is, to no surprise, a sellout.
On top of that, according to SeatGeek, the game is the most demanded ticket in Iowa since it started tracking the secondary ticket market in 2010. Tickets are going for $272. In 2010, Ohio State-Iowa tickets were going for $245 and in 2015 Taylor Swift tickers were available for $217.
At $272, the game also is the most in-demand ticket in college sports this week. The next closest is Alabama at South Carolina for $219.
“What’s come to fruition is football has gotten good enough to mirror what our fans have been doing for a long time,” Pollard said. “So now, we’re getting rewarded with GameDay.”
College GameDay's impact
The local Ames economy and Ames community are going to reap the rewards as well.
“There’s a company that studies the economic impact of GameDay’s around the country,” Pollard said. “For Central Florida, they estimated that it was $7.5-10 million worth of economic impact. It’s a big deal for not only our football program and athletics department, but for Iowa State, the Ames community and the state of Iowa.”
Kevin Kisling, a store manager at the Lincoln Center Hy-Vee in Ames — which is located just five blocks away from Jack Trice Stadium — has been preparing since Tuesday.
“Any home game is a big day for us, and this happens to be the biggest one in history,” Kisling said. “We do a bunch of catering out on tent row in the tailgate lots and for the university as well.
“We’ll have all hands-on deck. Anybody that’s available is working. We started filling up shelves and displays on Tuesday just to be ready.”
They’ve ordered extras of all of the tailgating necessities — including Busch Light, the only thing Iowa and Iowa State fans can seem to agree on this week. But even with all the preparation, he knows there’s a chance they’ll still sell out of things.
“We have a trailer on the dock just in case we need to make an emergency run,” Kisling said. “If it was an 11 a.m. game, it wouldn’t be an issue, but with a 3 p.m. game and the perfect weather, we may need extra ice, pop, beer, chips, snacks and other tailgate items.
“That’s what it’s about this weekend.”
With all of the added people, beer and the hype of GameDay, ISU and Ames police departments are more than all hands-on deck. They know they can’t control a crowd this size, while trying to maintain order while people park, so they’re calling on departments in the surrounding communities — and even ones outside of the county — to help out.
“We have Ames PD, Story Country Sheriff’s Office, Huxley, Nevada, Story City and we’ve reached out to Marshalltown PD,” Greiter said. “We truly rely on our partner agencies that surround Ames to help. Every game day is a massive undertaking, but this one is even more so.
“Marshalltown is a new addition for involvement and assistance. When you look at the Iowa game with GameDay added to it, and there’s an apparent need for more assistance. We’ll have more on staff this weekend than we typically do.”
Greiter, as usual, will be on bike patrol. He’ll ride around the tailgating lots, but his goal isn’t to make people nervous. He wants to have a good time. He plays bags and ladder golf and said he’ll do anything that a normal tailgater would do — just without the alcohol.
“What we do on bike patrol is we really try to maintain the crowd,” Greiter said. “You can’t control a crowd that large, so what we do is we continue to build rapport. Over the past 10 years since I’ve worked here, we have repeatedly maintained and developed a fantastic relationship with the folks that are in the tailgate lots.
“That allows us to our job, but also have support from the people around us, even when we’re writing a ticket or making an arrest, which is often viewed as a very negative experience. We do that by playing games, hanging out and chatting with people.”
As for the game, it’s different now. Iowa State is on an upswing, locally and nationally. The Cyclones are doing things that haven’t been done before in the school’s history.
“It’s another great bench mark,” Pollard said. “It’s a national benchmark ... everybody nationally knows that GameDay is.”
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