Magic Bus finds new home in Coralville


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The bus is back in business — the Magic Bus that is.

The Magic Bus is back after a yearlong hiatus. Last year, the tailgating venue was unable to attain a permit to operate because the city had created stricter regulations for game-day vendors. But the bus will no longer operate as it once had.
The tailgating bus has set up camp in Coralville outside Backpocket Brewing, a new microbrewery located in the Iowa River Landing

Jake Simmons, the Backpocket brewmaster, said that because of the new location, the Magic Bus will not be a part of the tailgating scene anymore. The Magic Bus will instead operate at the brewery every Friday night before game days starting Sept. 14.

Allen Miller, the president of the Iowa City Ducks Rugby Club, which sponsors the Magic Bus, agreed with Simmons.

“It’s going to be completely different,” he said. “I don’t even know if tailgating will be the right word anymore.”

The Friday night Magic Bus events will have local bands playing each week. None are booked yet.

The previous $15 cover fee, which included drinks, will now be $5 at the Coralville location, which will go toward the Magic Bus. This fee will not cover drinks, which will be sold by the pint by Backpocket.

“It’s going to be a different kind of monster,” said Jeremy Freerks, the social chairman of the Ducks Rugby Club. “We want to keep the Magic Bus alive.”

Simmons said that as a former University of Iowa student and former Magic Bus tailgater, he is glad Backpocket can help keep the tradition alive as well as promote the new brewery.

The brewery and Magic Bus affiliation began with Simmons, who said he knew some guys from the rugby team.

“They needed a spot for the location, and we had a spot for them,” Simmons said. “It just went hand-in-hand.”

As previously reported in the DI, the Melrose ordinance that took Magic Bus off the tailgating map prohibited vendors from selling alcohol and limited the available space on Melrose Avenue. Vendors must also pay a $75 permit fee to sell their products. Before this ordinance, there were no regulatory ordinances.

Iowa City City Councilor Connie Champion said the ordinances implemented last year aimed to curb the abuse of alcohol near the stadium in consideration of the residents who live near there.

Among the ordinance issues was skepticism about the Magic Bus’s fundraising efforts, Champion said.

“There was something kind of off about the Magic Bus,” she said. “They said they were not for profit, but they were under a for-profit organization.”

Freerks said the cover fees went to paying for the band and beer and the remainder of the proceeds went to charities.

Though he said the Magic Bus hopes to move closer to Kinnick Stadium someday, if ordinances allow, the main concern of Magic Bus is generating money for charity donations, such as Variety, a children’s organization, as it did in the past.

Freerks said Magic Bus hopes to draw in Hawkeye fans who come from out of town and stay in the area the night before game day. Both he and Miller are confident Magic Bus’s old fans will still come out.  

“There are people who have been coming to the bus for years,” Miller said. “They support our vision of charitable events.”

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