Councilors reject ban on game day vendors, look for more regulation
Hawkeye fans will most likely be able to continue their annual pilgrimage to the stands along Melrose Avenue — but with more city regulation.
At their Monday work session, Iowa City city councilors strongly opposed an outright ban on tailgating vendors. But they said the city can reach a balance that addresses both concerns about neighborhood safety and fans' desire to keep the stands near Kinnick Stadium through more regulation.
"We're a Big Ten university town — athletics, whether you like it or not, are very, very important to this community," Councilor Susan Mims said.
City officials want to draft a permit system and look into how vending is regulated at other local events, such as the city's festivals.
Similar temporary-use permits cost $75 per season but officials were unsure if the permits for Melrose Avenue would have the same costs. The added regulation and enforcement will cost the city extra money because of needed staffing on the weekends, said Doug Boothroy, the director of Housing and Inspection Services.
Boothroy and a city panel submitted information to the council last week suggesting numerous options for vendors along the stretch outside Kinnick after receiving complaints from residents in the Melrose area.
The complaints largely focused on the trash left in the area and safety concerns. Numerous councilors talked about the gas line vendor Game Day Iowa accidentally punctured when setting up for an event last year.
Boothroy also said there were concerns commercial vending was creeping farther into the neighborhood beyond Melrose Avenue.
"I think we need to find some kind of middle ground where we can give some kind of control," Councilor Mike Wright said. "I don't think an outright ban is going to work."
Some councilors also noted the problem also stems from tailgaters, not just the people profiting off of them.
"Profit is not a dirty word if it's used properly," said Councilor Terry Dickens.
Over the years, vendors along Melrose have grown to roughly 27 offering a variety of items, ranging from hamburgers, turkey legs, beverages, and clothing.
Troy Norpel, a vendor who attended the council meeting, said the councilors' decision is agreeable.
"I'm pleased, in a sense, that they're not going to ban it," he said.
Norpel, who runs Kingdom Graphics and has been a vendor on Melrose Avenue for nearly a decade, believes other vendors will self-enforce regulations once they are known.
The council also looked into the regulations for other vendors throughout the city, more notably those scattered throughout the city selling profane T-shirts out of cardboard boxes.
After news broke the council was considering a ban on vendors, Iowa City residents and Hawkeye fans sent an outpouring of objections urging councilors let them stay.
"Although I live in Tennessee, I do make the trip back to Iowa City twice a year for football games," said UI alum Alan Koufer in an e-mail to councilors. " 'The Melrose Experience' is a major factor in these annual trips."
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