Tailgating company gets state approval to operate, while West Campus parties are banned

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Longhorns opened the season Saturday against UTEP with an estimated 18,000 fans inside Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium.

Longhorns make it to game day for unique, historic football season during pandemic

Inside a stadium with a capacity of around 100,000 people, only 18,000 were allowed in.

Outside of the stadium, plenty of other things are looking different for Texas Longhorns. Tailgating is prohibited, but one company found away around the state ban. HornBall Texas Tailgators set up shop on 18th and Trinity Street Across from the stadium.

“I feel like I’m an ambassador for the University and for the city. We get people that come out to tailgate every year from all over the world,” said Ryan Lepper, Owner of Horn-Ball Texas Tailgators.

This is Ryan Lepper’s 20th season operating Horn-Ball Texas Tailgating. Instead of the hundreds of people in attendance, their 20th anniversary looks significantly different.

“A normal setup would look like this… You would get a 10 by 10 tent, you’ll have a chair inside, your own trashcan and your own table,” said Lepper.

The tailgate will operate as if it’s a restaurant with groups of no more than 10 sitting inside the tents, watching the game all while a server comes around to them.

“I think people are going to forget about life for a while and just take time to relax,” said Lepper.

Lepper said he sent a proposal to the state for approval. The Texas Facilities Commission approved them a week ago. It’s been a scramble to prepare since.

“Logistically it was a difficult thing to do. We’ve been here for 20 years though, so I knew what to do, and how to make it work,” said Lepper.

In July, the University banned on and off campus parties, stating there could be penalties, including suspensions. Saturday in West Campus, there was lots of chanting and those parties still happened.

“I’m thankful we even get to have a game. If we get the virus, we may have symptoms, we may not. There are students who have pre-existing conditions. If they got the virus, then it would be a serious thing,” said a University of Texas Freshman.

The University of Texas student said the decision to come out for her first game was a difficult one. KXAN found her walking up to a West Campus party on Saturday. She’s the only student who wanted to talk about her pre-game plans.

Since March, 814 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the university’s online COVID-19 dashboard.

KXAN took a deep dive into the most recent 311 data from Council District 9 and found several COVID-19 related complaints, specifically for large overcrowded parties, improper social distancing and people not wearing masks. 

KXAN also reached out to the Austin Police Department to see if they are increasing patrols around the UT area for parties and tailgating and what type of fines or citations would be issued. We are waiting to hear back.

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