DES MOINES, Iowa -- For decades the Drake Relays has drawn a huge crowd of fans to the stadium, and then a huge crowd of alumni to the bars and restaurants down the street. This year, the university will try to bring the two groups together along Forest Avenue by closing off a part of the street.
This is an attempt to give the community more of a chance to engage in the Drake Relay atmosphere. By closing off Forrest Ave the activities on campus can flow right into the stadium giving the Relays a true festival atmosphere.
The Director of Alumni Relations at Drake Andy Verlengia said closing off the street gives Drake Relays a true festival feeling. People can walk back and forth between campus and the stadium and not have to worry about traffic. In previous years food trucks were behind this closed gate and you had to have a Relay ticket to purchase food. This year, the Relays will feature 11 food vendor stands, interactive activities and Relay merchandise for sale all along the blocked-off street. The closed street will also serve as an outdoor venue for a free concert for students.
Verlengia said this is just another way to engage the community with the world class athletic event.
“Every big athletics event you ever go to, if you go to the Super Bowl or a big event like that streets are closed off and you’ve got that atmosphere that something’s taking place, something’s happening. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the university to realize we’re at that size and scope, that we deserve to have the street closed down, we deserve to have a spot where people can really come and congregate and celebrate,” Verlengia said.
Every year thousands of Drake alumni come back for the Relays and many of them tend to congregate in their usual favorite spots just down the street. Jethro’s Barbecue and Peggy’s Tavern are already setting up large tents just for the occasion. Drake knows the activities outside of the competitions are equally as important to the Relay atmosphere, but they hope making the street an outside venue will draw more people toward campus and the stadium.
“I think you probably find that with the relays where some students their experience was everything taking place around it. But what’s neat is that regardless of if you’re an athletics fan or you’re a fan of everything happening around it, it’s the shared experience that everybody in the Drake community remembers and looks forward to every year,” Verlengia said.
The road will be closed on Forest Ave between 27th Street and 29th Street from 2 P.M. Thursday to 5 P.M. Saturday. The city is also closing street parking on University Avenue because of the increased traffic from having to detour around the closed section of Forest Avenue.