'Jack the Loop' provides Twin Cities tailgating alternative for South Dakota State football fans

Sep. 15—MINNEAPOLIS — Come Saturday morning, the South Dakota State University Alumni Association will attempt to paint Minneapolis' North Loop yellow and blue.

Officially known as "Jack the Loop," SDSU's Twin Cities alumni chapter has organized a series of local social establishments set to host a crowd of alumni, fans and friends in the lead-up to the Jackrabbits' 2:30 p.m. football game at the Minnesota Twins' Target Field.

A unique event — after all, playing football at a Major League Baseball stadium is rare at any level — called for a unique solution for pregame festivities.

A traditional tailgate, such as the one found in the lots surrounding Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings on a normal gameday, was out of the question due to the limited space available in the heart of the Minneapolis metro area.

"When the team is playing somewhere, you have to figure out, 'Are we going to have a mass of people to make [a gathering] make sense,'" explained Andi Fouberg, the president and CEO of the SDSU Alumni Association. "In this situation, we certainly knew that there would be a lot of people. The challenge we run into is a venue being large enough and close enough is pretty unrealistic."

Instead, the Twin Cities alumni chapter's board of directors took a different approach, piecing together their eight favorite social venues in the North Loop neighborhood as hosts for smaller groups of Jackrabbits.

Ideally, the experience will feel like an alternative take on a traditional tailgate like the one found surrounding Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings on a normal gameday. Each host establishment has its own aesthetic, food and beverage options and different alumni hosts, and moving from one to another is meant to mimic moving from one tailgate site to another.

"When I go to Brookings, I'm the type that wanders around The Backyard (the nickname for SDSU's largest tailgating lot)," said Lindsey Fast, the Twin Cities alumni chapter president. "I like to go to as many tailgates as possible and stop by and say hello, so that's kind of the vibe that I was going for [with Jack the Loop]."

To enhance the tailgate feel, Fast and company reached out to several prominent groups who host tailgates in Brookings, including the Jackrabbits Former Players Association, Jackrabbit Illustrated and the Yankton Area Jacks, to host the gatherings at some of the Minneapolis locations, the first of which open at 10 a.m.

Though South Dakota State University has long had a large alumni presence in the Twin Cities area, Saturday will mark the first event of this scale hosted by the Twin Cities alumni chapter, which was just formalized this past April.

But there's already a pre-existing relationship with the university, the Minnesota Twins and the area around Target Field. For the past few years, the Twins have hosted a South Dakota State University-themed night, which Fouberg notes has continued to grow. From that event, opportunities such as Saturday's festivities have sprouted.

"Urban areas can be challenging when you're doing events, and if you try to have a smaller event in Minneapolis, it can be quite a feat for someone to come," Fouberg said. "But an event like this, it's going to bring out lots of people, and certainly the uniqueness of it will inspire lots of Jackrabbits to travel up to the Twin Cities for the weekend."

Fast isn't shy about her hopes for the day. She wants all of Jackrabbit Nation in the area to descend on the North Loop neighborhood.

"I do not want anyone in blue and yellow hanging out anywhere in the Twin Cities besides the North Loop. That's my ultimate goal," Fast said. "There's so much to that neighborhood, so I think people really enjoying and exploring the North Loop would be a success."