GT Athletics will unveil a new tailgating tradition before the first home game against South Carolina State on Saturday, Sept. 9. Helluva Block Party driven by Hyundai will occupy three blocks of North Avenue from Techwood Drive to Tech Parkway each gameday, effectively moving the nucleus of Tech tailgating from the back of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Hyundai Field to the front of it.
Before this year, tailgates took place in Yellow Jacket Alley, the section of Bobby Dodd Way NW adjacent to the stadium, and spilled onto Techwood. The new area is significantly larger, allowing Tech to host a variety of new features, such as live entertainment, tailgating games and various merchandising points.
Chisom Onyia, fourth-year BCHM, is the Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President of Life. As a part of her job, she works with Tech to increase enthusiasm for sporting events and improve game day experiences. Thus, she played an instrumental role in bringing the Helluva Block Party plans to fruition.
“Helluva Block Party is essentially an effort on behalf of athletics at Georgia Tech to increase engagement from all sectors,” says Onyia, “not only on the Georgia Tech student, faculty and staff side but also the Atlanta community. So Helluva Block Party’s whole goal is to create more visibility, engagement and buy-in within GT athletics. Of course, this is happening around football season, but this sentiment is planning on being projected not just through football but through all of our sports at Tech.”
The idea to re-imagine tailgating at Tech came when GT Athletics announced last year that upgrades would be coming to the Edge Center for Student-Athlete Leadership. As the SGA representative on the project, Onyia has worked to ensure that students have a voice in its development. As a result, the tailgates will feature several programs aimed at increasing student engagement.
“So one idea … was building up [the Yellow Jacket Club (YJC)]. It’s an organization that’s through athletics, but technically also a [registered student organization (RSO)] on campus and their entire thing is basically getting students and alumni to engage in athletics. YJC now has an initiative that started at House Party, which was a couple of weeks ago, and at T-Night. They essentially let freshmen know that, hey, if you [are one of the] first 100 freshmen who come to the game, … you guys are gonna be able to get really great seats. You guys might be able to run on the field and do a little bit extra essentially. But in return, we’re gonna ask you guys to attend [a certain] amount of games and help that engagement in that way,” Onyia said.
In refining the idea for Helluva Block Party, GT Athletics and SGA wanted to organize the tailgate with old traditions in mind. Its departure from Yellow Jacket Alley meant that the two groups had to invent creative ways to preserve Tech football traditions. They accomplished this by bringing voices from organizations like the Marching Band and Ramblin’ Wreck Club to the table.
“I helped in terms of inviting Omar Khan, who is the Ramblin’ Wreck driver, … to talk about true logistics— how does the Ramblin’ Wreck drive through North Avenue when you’ve now created festival barricades, and you’ve shut down this entire road? How do we make that happen, realistically? So that was really, really great to be able to bring the Ramblin’ Wreck driver, band, cheer and all of those aspects of the athletic experience together in one room and talk about that,” Onyia said.
They plan to organize the tailgate so as to still provide spaces towards the front of North Avenue for the public and private tailgating that used to occur on Techwood. According to Onyia, the green area in front of Tech Tower will also be an event space with tailgating and merchandise, and towards the back of the block, there will be a stage featuring live entertainment before each game.
Per GT Athletics, the section of North Avenue will be closed six hours before kickoff, and festivities will begin four hours before. Instead of entering through Yellow Jacket Alley two hours before kickoff, the Jackets will now enter at the corner of North Avenue and Techwood Drive. Immediately after their entrance, live entertainment will begin. Helluva Block Party will close thirty minutes prior to kickoff each game to allow Jackets fans time to reach their seats. North Avenue will reopen during the third quarter to allow for the flow of post-game traffic. GT Athletics encourages all students, alumni and Jackets fans to show out next Saturday morning at the first ever Helluva Block Party and cheer on the white and gold.