A Road Paved in Blue
True Blue has increased fan support with the new True Blue Avenue. Troi Williams /// The Spectrum
Beer pong tables, KanJam and IncrediBull pizza boxes litter Amherst Manor Dr on Saturdays before home football games. Then, though, the street is known as True Blue Avenue.
And this is True Blue's block.
True Blue continued to strengthen its role in the Buffalo athletics community when it unveiled True Blue Avenue this semester. True Blue Avenue allows all fans of Buffalo's football team, regardless of university affiliation, to come together and tailgate prior to home games. True Blue has been the principle contributor to tailgating at Buffalo.
The organization was established in 2007 when two students were unhappy with the poor support of Buffalo athletic teams. Paul Hutchings and Jeseph Myers saw skimpy, isolated tailgating at Buffalo's football games and realized that something had to change.
After establishing the Special Events lot as True Blue territory, there was an increase in support for the football team. The increased fan support arguably led to results on the field, as the Bulls won the Mid-American Conference football championship the following year.
The next few years were filled with some trial and error.
True Blue established a point system that would award prizes to members who attended more events. There also was a fee to be a member. But True Blue officers felt that students were being forced to go to games, and it was not an effective way to maximize the number of people that attended events.
The officers got together and tried to figure out how to make their club participation grow. They decided that tailgating was one aspect they needed to improve. Their first thought was to move their location closer to the stadium. After going through some options, they decided on the field adjacent to Bissell Hall. Kelsey Burglund, True Blue's president, believes the new location allows more room and a more comfortable feel for fans.
"It creates a better environment and it's not just in a parking lot," Burglund said. "It's more of just a festival."
Burglund also described True Blue Avenue as "a big block party." The large field, section of the road, and the grass-covered median now make up True Blue Avenue on game day. Performances by the UB Jam Club and the Royal Pitches serenade fans scattered about the Avenue. WRUB provides DJ entertainment between performances. Senior member Jeff Herendeen explained that, although the club has gained in numbers during his time at Buffalo, there is more camaraderie among members.
"I think the whole club itself, as far as just the structure and membership, has grown," Herendeen said. "People were a part of True Blue but there really wasn't any unity and you just showed up to games."
The highlight of the tailgating is the players' walk from the team buses through "Victory Lane," and into the stadium about two and half hours prior to game time.
Their first stop?
True Blue Avenue. The band, cheerleaders, spirit squad and coaches lead the players through True Blue Avenue, and players and fans are rewarded with high fives and words of encouragement.
Burglund handed off the True Blue flag to one of the players – which was returned to her at game time – continuing another True Blue tradition.
The players have responded extraordinarily well. Players attend freshmen orientations over the summer and are active in True Blue presentations. The players and True Blue officials constantly meet to brainstorm ideas.
"They support us and we support them, it's a great interaction," Herendeen said.
The parents of players are also excited about True Blue Avenue. Bill Sales, the father of Buffalo football player Trevor Sales, does not miss a game despite living in Indiana. Sales is impressed with the strides that True Blue is making and he feels the team is getting a huge boost from the student support. For his dedication, Sales was given two of the 19 True Blue reserved parking spots for his truck and trailer, which are decorated with Buffalo football logos, and of course a No. 71 for his son.
However, head coach Jeff Quinn is True Blue's biggest fan. Quinn loves the effort of the fans and is consistently citing them as a major reason for the Bulls' success on the field. Cody Breite, True Blue's Vice President, has enjoyed Quinn's reaction to True Blue's upgrades.
True Blue Avenue also creates a safe environment for people to tailgate, in part because it is located next to the university's police station. True Blue allows drinking, but it does not sell or distribute alcohol to anyone. True Blue officials have talked to police and university officials, and have made sure that True Blue Avenue is not breaking any university policies.
True Blue officers are also making sure that everyone is acting in a mature and responsible manner.
However, True Blue is not done yet. It is still unsatisfied with the student attendance numbers and is already planning to expand.
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