There’s nothing like a Trojan tailgating party, so imagine strolling on to campus a few hours before a home game and finding a shaded, safe space, well stocked with tables, chairs, umbrellas and big-screen TVs, and freshly grilled hot dogs and cold beer ready and waiting.

Fans, meet the Trojan Family Game Day Experience.

“We’ve carved out a space in the center of campus—Alumni Park—that’s a family-friendly zone,” says Adam Rosen, assistant vice president for cultural relations and university events. Designed with alumni and families in mind, the Trojan Family Game Day Experience is free of charge and open to everyone. It offers ample shaded seating, a variety of inexpensive foods and drinks, big-screen TVs tuned to other college games, and plenty of wholesome diversions for the kids.

After pilot testing last season, the Trojan Family Game Day Experience is ready for prime time this fall.

“It’s a safe area where fans can come and enjoy themselves, where they don’t have to bring everything with them. Plus it’s easy to make their way over to the game,” Rosen says.

It’s a safe area where fans can come and enjoy themselves, where they don’t have to bring everything with them.

Adam Rosen

Developed in partnership with the Office of Student Affairs, the family-friendly tailgating area is part of a campus-wide push to bring memorable experiences to Trojans.

“Delivering the experiences that our stakeholders expect—and surpassing those expectations whenever possible—is paramount to USC’s viability and ascent,” said President C. L. Max Nikias at a staff retreat last November. That’s where he unveiled “The USC Experience,” an initiative to deliver quality and unique value to everyone who interacts with USC. It takes its cue from the best selling book The Experience Economy.

The Trojan Family Game Day Experience advances that goal. Four hours before kickoff, guests will find an area set up for the perfect family tailgate. USC Hospitality provides libations with several bars serving beer and wine—plus mimosas for those early-morning games. There’s an assortment of food booths, plus a ballpark-style food truck. Nachos, hot dogs, hamburgers and beer cost $5 each.

“We didn’t want people to feel they had to pay a premium to be in the space,” Rosen says. His team experimented with different layouts and menu options until they got the mix just right. “There was almost never a line at the bars,” he says.

Last year, the Trojan Family Game Day Experience drew about 700 guests each game, culminating with the Notre Dame contest, which pulled in nearly 1,000 people. Word spread fast—quite a few of them were Fighting Irish fans.

The atmosphere in Alumni Park remained respectful and friendly. While parents sipped drinks and watched 55-inch LED screens tuned to live games around the country, children massed to the arts and crafts tables to make their own penalty flags, Traveler’s tails and Trojan “fun loop” bracelets. Older kids (and some adults) took a turn at running a training camp-style obstacle course, throwing touchdowns to Trojan receivers or kicking footballs through miniature uprights. Members of USC Men’s Crew worked each game last fall teaching kids the fundamentals.

When it comes to attending a USC football game, national publications already rank the experience as among the best in the country, according to Ainsley Carry, vice provost for student affairs at USC. “The sights, sounds, band and fans make coming to USC on game day a moment to remember and treasure,” he says. “The impetus behind the new Trojan Family Game Day Experience was to make it even better.”

The event will be offered to fans before each home game except the Oct. 8 matchup against Washington, which falls on a Thursday night, and the Nov. 7 showdown against Arizona, which falls on Homecoming weekend.

Next up: Making an attractive space for USC undergraduates. “We’ll be tailoring the program so that it’s a safe and comfortable environment where students can celebrate the university, which is what they really want to do,” Rosen says.

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