There’s an emotional attachment to the grassy Trinity tailgate parking lot near Carter-Finley Stadium for Jonathan Ray that goes beyond a few pregame beers and barbecue.
Ray, 29, who has had season tickets and parked in the Trinity lot for the past six years, met his wife while the two were tailgating in college at N.C. State.
“This is our thing,” Ray said. “We plan every fall around this.”
Ray, and his wife, Marisa, are among a group of several hundred N.C. State fans who will have to find a new parking spot for the 2018 football season.
The privately-owned land for the Trinity and TX parking lots on Trinity Road, near Blue Ridge Road and across from the State Fairgrounds, is under contract to be sold.
N.C. State announced late Wednesday afternoon it wouldn’t have the 1,300 to 1,500 parking spots available for the upcoming season. With the deadline to secure priority season tickets and parking with the Wolfpack Club upcoming on May 1, there were some frustrated Wolfpack fans on Thursday.
“The timing stinks,” said Andrew Collicutt, 34, who moved back to Raleigh from Atlanta and was planning on parking in either the TX or Trinity lot. “I do honestly feel like this was out of (N.C. State’s) hands but they’ve got to figure something out.”
The crowd in the grassy and partially-shaded Trinity and TX lots tended to skew younger in age and was a little more lively than the paved lots for big Wolfpack Club donors closer to Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena.
“That’s the best lot, and best tailgating spot, in the whole place,” said Joseph Gillis Jr., 37, who has parked in the Trinity lot for the past 10 years.
“You could get to your own spot, move around and you weren’t on top of everybody. And the crowd wasn’t too old or too young. It was the lot where people still wanted to party but didn’t want to chug a keg.”
The parking spots weren't assigned at either TX or the Trinity lot, so when the gates open — five hours prior to kickoff — groups were able to get in and claim an larger area to congregate together.
Alex Durham, a 26-year-old project manager in RTP, had a regular group of recent graduates that would run 40 to 50 deep in the TX lot.
“There was plenty of room to move about and set up tents and play games,” Durham said. “I really don’t know where we can go that will be a similar situation.”
The Wolfpack Club, which handles the parking assignments, has started to sort out different options. There will be spots with lots near Cardinal Gibbons high school, West Chase Drive and the Frank Weedon Drive for the displaced fans.
Those options are not as appealing as the TX and Trinity lots, said Bill O’Donnell, who has parked in the TX lot the past four years.
“I don’t want to be stuck in a paved lot or somewhere in the back of an office building,” O’Donnell, 26, said. “It’s not the end of the world but it’s going to be a totally different tailgating experience.”
Gillis understood N.C. State didn’t own the land, and there was a chance the sale could eventually happen, but he was disappointed the school wasn’t able to buy it to keep the lots.
“I’d have paid double, or even triple, to stay there,” Gillis said.
The loss of the lots could lead some fans to give up their tickets. Matt Farrell, 36, has spent the past 10 years in the TX lot.
His tailgate group, which ranged from 15 to 25 people, was able to park in the same area near the fence line and the trees.
“Everyone knew where to find us,” Farrell said.
But Farrell, who has been a season-ticket holder for 10 years and has paid off his lifetime rights, isn’t sure he’ll re-up for tickets this season. He might just buy single-game tickets, for big games, because of the parking situation.
“This honestly, just discourages me from wanting to renew my tickets,” Farrell said.
Ray, who met his wife in the tailgating lots, won’t go as far to give up his tickets. He’s not optimistic about finding a similar spot for his group and all their needs.
“We’re tying to figure out our next move,” Ray said. “I think we’ll still have a parking spot, but it’s not an ideal situation.”