The 10 schools that make up the Big 12 can brag about some of the best tailgating in college football, including Baylor University. The new tailgating area at McLane Stadium features turf from the old Floyd Casey Stadium, and encompasses many gameday traditions such as Touchdown Alley.
Tailgating aside, students and fans around the Big 12 also flock to traditional hot spots within their respective communities on the night before the game, as well as after the game, to celebrate victory or drown their sorrows in defeat. Each community has its own traditional “game-day” entertainment district. Some are simply a bar district, while others include restaurants, boutiques and other specialty stories. Most are in the downtown area in their respective Big 12 communities.
The proposed Austin Avenue experience would be Waco’s entry into the “game-day” entertainment district. Here is a school-by-school look at how other Big 12 communities cater to game-day crowds outside the traditional tailgating experience. Populations given are 2013 Census Bureau estimates:
University of Kansas
Lawrence, Kansas (pop. 90,811)
It says a lot that a ‘must-see’ for football fans at the University of Kansas is a tour of the basketball arena. Phog Allen Fieldhouse aside, most of the pregame action in Lawrence involves a pub-crawl along Massachusetts Street, the main street in Lawrence. Known as The Mass, it was named the state’s most popular tourist attraction this year by TripAdvisor. The 600 to 1200 block area of Massachusetts Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Kansas State University
Manhattan, Kansas (pop. 56,143)
Most Kansas State students and fans go to Aggieville to celebrate a win, or drown their sorrows after a loss. Aggieville is a six-block, 16-acre area that contains more than 100 shops, restaurants, taverns and a beautifully landscaped park (locally known as “The Triangle”). Aggieville has been around since 1889. It’s where K-State’s pep rallies and homecoming parades are held. It is located about four blocks, or less than a mile, west of Bill Snyder Memorial Stadium in downtown Manhattan, Kansas.
University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma (pop. 118,197)
Located one block north of Memorial Stadium, Campus Corner has been the pregame home of students and fans since 1917, and features 60 different clubs, boutiques and sports bars covering several blocks along Boyd Avenue in Norman. Legendary bar O’Connell’s joined the Campus Corner scene a few years back after the original location was razed to make room for more dorm rooms.
Texas Tech University
Lubbock (pop. 239,538)
Jones AT&T Stadium is known as one of the most hostile places to play in the Big 12. It also has one of the largest tailgating traditions as well. Raider Alley next to the stadium is THE place to be on gameday. For after the game, as well as the night before, Lubbock is developing its Depot District, located near downtown at 19th and Buddy Holly Avenue, as a destination spot.
The budding district has met with mixed reviews in the past, but is widely known as the place where Texas Tech students spend weekend nights. It is developing into a go-to place when visiting Lubbock for a game, but competes with several well-known eating establishments and sports bars along Broadway, including local favorite Chimy’s.
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia (pop. 30,666)
Most Big 12 fans will never visit Morgantown, but there are a few diehard fans who hit every game, home and away, including Baylor fans. In spite of the fact that Morgantown is the Big 12’s smallest market, West Virginia University is a high-profile football program and Morgantown has its own gameday traditions. When the lights dim at Mountaineer Stadium, most folks congregate in downtown Morgantown along High Street, the main street. There are 35 taverns and more than 100 retail shops in downtown Morgantown.
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma (pop. 47,186)
Eskimo Joe’s consistently ranks as one of the top 10 college bars in America, and it’s only a five-minute walk from there to Boone Pickens Stadium. However, Eskimo Joe anchors only a small cluster of restaurants along Elm Street, and it’s almost always packed. Stillwater’s equivalent to a gameday entertainment district is a collection of taverns and bars along Washington Street known as The Strip. It’s a three-block-long pub crawl adjacent to the OSU campus and the only Big 12 school whose student-centric area is not in the heart of downtown.
Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa (Pop. 61,792)
Like Stillwater, Ames lacks a definitive downtown district for after the game. Most college students gather at several taverns along Welch Avenue west of Jack Trice Stadium in an area known as Campustown. The signature restaurant is Hickory Park east of the stadium along Highway 69, between I-35 and the stadium.
Texas Christian University
Fort Worth (pop. 792,727)
TCU isn’t the traditional college town set-up, being in the middle of Fort Worth. A TCU-centric entertainment district doesn’t really exist, although there are a number of eating places and taverns near Amon Carter Stadium and the campus. In terms of entertainment districts, most Waco residents have probably visited Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth, or the West Seventh district. At the very least, many Bear fans have likely been to Billy Bob’s or Bass Hall. It’s only 90 minutes from Waco.
University of Texas
Austin (pop. 885,400)
Austin’s Sixth Street entertainment district outgrew its gameday destination moniker a long time ago. The traditional seven-block stretch of Sixth Street from Congress Avenue to Interstate 35, just south of the University of Texas campus, is the center of a much larger entertainment district that plays host to millions of visitors each year. For gameday purposes, anywhere in the Sixth Street district is the place to be.