It’s an annual tradition in the Joyce Center parking lot. It has its own website. It’s been featured on a CNN story about tailgating, as well as a CBS College Sports Network show. An annual invite goes out that “at least tries to be funny” and typically attracts close to 200 attendees.
It’s The Admiral’s “Uber Tailgater.” And like to many traditions at ND, it started small.
“The core group are ND class of ’99 grads that were close friends from our involvement in the Student Managers Organization, all of us working football in the 1997 season,” says Uber organizer Marc “The Admiral” Wolnitzek. “Since we were all managers, we oddly enough didn’t have much tailgating experience, particularly myself being a senior football manager, so we joke about our first tailgate in ’99 where we had a bucket of fried chicken, some beer, and we parked in the old Malabar parking lot across the street from the Linebacker.”
Marc got things rolling in 2000 for the BC game, in the old Blue Field South/Radio Tower lot. “I was able to haul everything up and it was just easier for me to take care of all the supplies with everyone chipping in, so it started there and has continued to be run the same way, and I have constantly added more and more gear and equipment to support it as it has grown.”
Around 40 folks attended the 2000 version, and after that successful first year, the “Uber” name was applied to the 2001 effort. Explains Marc: “Joe Palmer and I both had noted that ‘uber’ was a trendy adjective you’d see at the time. I wish I had known how trendy it would eventually get and had registered uber.com instead of ubertailgater.com for my website, as that really would have been worth something.”
Many of the initial group of managers had siblings who attended ND and some were student managers themselves, and the network of the Uber continued to grow with their friends, families and roommates over the years. Marc also got more and more involved with the Notre Dame Club of Cincinnati, so friends from that organization started to attend, as well as friends of Marc’s parents (dad Steve is class of 1970) and their network, many of whom have been going to ND games for decades. Some of Marc’s work colleagues from all over the country have attended as well. Over the years the crowd has grown and this year The Uber had over 150 people in attendance.
The food is almost all from Cincinnati and/or northern Kentucky; so many people have been introduced to a cheesy-mett along with the specialty of Marc’s mom, Katie Wolnitzek — her famous Cincinnati-style potato chili. Katie’s meticulously designed stadium cake has become popular as well and is a particular hit with the growing legion of little kids now in attendance, along with her expertly-decorated cookies.
“My mom puts a tremendous amount of work into the preparation for the whole day and it certainly wouldn’t be an Uber without her and the help I get from my family and some in the group, particularly with the setup and loading/unloading of the cargo van,” Marc notes.
“I’ve been located in the same spot in the Joyce lot going back to 2004 and fly the Admiral flag (my nickname from my managing days, also from Joe Palmer) as well as the Commonwealth of Kentucky flag to have something unique for people to look for,” Marc noted. “I’ve actually had Kentuckians stop by over the years from all over the state, several of whom had connections to my family as it was quickly discovered.”
One of the more notable annual traditions at The Uber is the B-52 toast that is done around three hours before kickoff. The toast started at the 2003 Uber and carried over a tradition from the now much-missed Maury’s Pat’s Pub, which had been a favorite football weekend gathering spot for family and friends and traditionally featured a similar toast to end the meal.
Though Marc has organized tailgates for many away games, there was only one official road Uber back in 2006, essentially a way to get folks to attend the season-opening game at Georgia Tech. “But because of that, I’m the only one that has been at every Uber – though several in the group have only missed one,” Marc said. “Many in the original group are now only able to make it back to only one game a year, and nearly without exception, they make sure that the Uber game is the one they attend.”