Magic Bus closes due to new Iowa City ordinance


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Hawkeye football fans will have one fewer place to tailgate this football season.

A recent Iowa City City Council ordinance prohibits the popular Magic Bus from setting up a tailgating area for fans. Iowa City Ducks Rugby Club members, who host the Magic Bus, said they’re unsure whether the bus could have a new space by next year’s football season.

“If it’s possible, we’re working toward having something at the end of the season,” said Noah Silvey, a member of the club. “We’re still trying to get an exemption, but there wasn’t enough time. We had to wait until [the council] came out with these new rules until we had a new opportunity to fight this.

We don’t know how long it’s going to take.”

In a July City Council meeting, councilors completed a Melrose ordinance that established regulations for game-day vendors across from Kinnick Stadium. In the ordinance, vendors are prohibited from selling alcohol, and the ordinance limits available space. Vendors must also pay a $75 permit fee to sell their products. Prior to the ordinance, city officials did not have any set regulations.

Rugby club Vice President Allen Miller, however, wasn’t optimistic. Despite talks with city officials, he said, getting an exemption to the ordinance is “pretty slim.”

“A lot of people are disappointed,” he said. “People who are really into tradition are going to be disappointed that we’re just kind of a victim of the circumstance of what’s happening here.”

One city official said it is unlikely the Magic Bus will get an exception without changing the ordinance.

“It’s an unfortunate fallout of that change in property ownership,” said City Councilor Susan Mims. “The Magic Bus was not fitting within the new regulations.”

Before the ordinance, the bus had trouble during last year’s football season when a change in property ownership displaced the bus. Throughout the season, the bus relocated to several places on Woodside Drive, West Benton Street, and Melrose Ave.

Miller said the rugby club toyed with returning to the bus’s last location in the fall of 2010 at the beginning of the summer, but the members hesitated about placing a deposit because of the uncertainty about the city ordinance.

“For us to put down that money without the certainty of being able to operate at all wasn’t a possibility,” he said. “Then the ordinance was passed, and we weren’t able to tailgate.”

Miller said he doesn’t believe the ordinance directly targets the bus.

“[The ordinance] was a rule that was made to keep more people from doing what we do,”he said. “I don’t think anyone had a problem with what we did, but they had a problem with more people trying to do that.”

The Magic Bus will be kept alive in some way, Miller said, because the rugby club will continue to hold fundraisers and donate to charities.

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