Oct. 5, 2003
By Seth Whitehead
CARBONDALE - The Southern Illinois University football program is in the process of building a winning tradition. And huge strides have been made on the field so far this season - as the Salukis have raced out to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1991.
But there is positive work going on off the field as well.
That's where the SIU promotions and marketing department has stepped in, organizing what has come to be known as Saluki Row, a family-friendly tailgate area between Lingle Hall and McAndrew Stadium.
Saluki Row - along with a number of group sales packages that save fans a minimum of 50 percent off regular ticket prices - gives fans the full college football experience at a discount price.
Both concepts came about last season and have continued to be very popular.
"It's amazing," said Julie Beck of SIU Athletic Group Sales. "It's really started to catch on. We've been very pleased with the progress we've made in trying to get a tradition started."
The philosophy is simple - building a festive and supportive atmosphere off the field goes a long way to building a winning tradition on the field.
One way of developing a bond between the fans and the team is the Saluki football players march to McAndrew Stadium from Lingle Hall before the game.
Before Saluki Row this was a routine event.
Now the players are greeted by throngs of fans as they are escorted by the SIU marching band, cheerleaders and mascots through Saluki Row before each game.
"(SIU head coach) Jerry (Kill) really wanted us to try to make an atmosphere from there to the stadium," Beck said. "And between his enthusiasm and (SIU athletic director) Paul Kowalczyk's vision about football from day one, we feel that Saluki Row has added a festive atmosphere for what we feel will be the best show in Southern Illinois.
"We're trying to show fans a good time. We've tried to make a very special area. And we want people to come see a very special team. And I think that they are starting to show that could really be the case."
Saluki Row offers fans a number of other pre-game festivities. All proceeds take place just north of Lingle Hall (north wing of SIU Arena). There is a corporate area on the south end of Saluki Row and a family-oriented area on the north end.
Corporate sponsors can rent various size tents, tables and chairs. Three 8-foot tables and 25 chairs can be rented for $50.
Tent rates are as follows: 20x20 tent, $225; 20x40 tent, $350; and 40x60 tent, $1,200. You may bring your own corporate tent (20x20 or larger) and set it up for free with the purchase of 15 group tickets or more. Catering is available from Chartwell's Catering, or you can bring your own food.
The family area features the bouncing Saluki Dawg House and other games for the kids.
A primary feature of the family area is the Gameday Birthday Bash, available for kids 15 years old and under for groups of 10 or more.
This package features a personal visit and picture with the Salukis Mascots, a reserved football ticket, birthday cake, hot dog, chips and a Pepsi, face painting, a Saluki Football T-shirt and a birthday wish via P.A. announcement for $12 per child. Also available for the Birthday Bash is 10x10 tent rental for just $25.
There are two group ticket opportunities that fans can take advantage of.
The touchdown package is a 15-ticket minimum at $15 per ticket for adults and $9 per child, including a Saluki T-shirt, hot dog and Pepsi and group recognition via P.A.
The extra point package is a 25 ticket minimum at $6 per adult and $3 per child including group recognition.
Group sales were introduced last year for football and basketball last year, and like Saluki Row, have been a tremendous success.
But plenty of tents and tickets are still available with just three home dates left on the schedule.
"I'd like to see tailgating all around a mile away," Beck said. "It's certainly not too late to commit to a tent for any home football game and the family area is available to all interested fans before each game."
Remaining home games are Oct. 11 and 25 and Nov. 8. All games will begin at 6 p.m. with the exception of the Oct. 11 homecoming game scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
The SIU Athletic Department is taking reservations for corporate tent packages and group tickets. For reservations or more information, contact Beck at (618) 453-5153 or e-mail her at email@example.com.