SBJ/September 18 - 24, 2006/This Weeks News

Great Lawn keeps tailgaters from cooking on asphalt

The desert climate in Phoenix has historically posed a challenge for NFL tailgating, but the Arizona Cardinals think they have solved part of the problem by introducing the Great Lawn outside their new stadium in Glendale.

The lawn means fewer skinned knees
from pregame scrimmages.
The eight-acre parcel of grass on the west side of the stadium makes it a little bit cooler for pregame partying compared with setting up hot grills in the parking lots in 90- to 100-degree temperatures. It’s first come, first served for fans setting up shade tents no bigger than 100 square feet.

About 1,250 trees, including red-leaf varieties, have been planted around the Great Lawn perimeter to provide more relief from the sun in future seasons. The Cardinals plan to add two more eight-acre turf areas this fall.

“Instead of just having a traditional sea of asphalt that you see at just about every venue in America, one of the main design objectives was to create an environment that is second to none from a fan-experience standpoint,” said Ron Minegar, Cardinals vice president of marketing and sales.

The Cardinals generate revenue on the Great Lawn through a percentage of food and merchandise sales by concessionaires Centerplate and Facility Merchandising Inc.

“We don’t want to overcommercialize it,” Minegar said.

“I don’t believe the game plan is to tie a sponsor to the Great Lawn,” he added. “Market research told us fans wanted to be able to bring in their grill and have an outdoor kitchen. We will sell a little food and beverage, but predominantly, it gives people an opportunity to tailgate themselves.”

Three hours before kickoff on the first NFL regular-season Sunday, the Great Lawn was full of activity.

Kids wearing Matt Leinart, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald jerseys played football on the grass. Other fans listened to a local band play on a portable stage sponsored by Alltel, one of the team’s founding sponsors.

In fact, so many tailgaters had plugged their portable televisions into electrical outlets attached to light towers to watch the early NFL games that they temporarily blew the power source, according to Cardinals officials. A plan in place for the next home game, Sept. 24, will spread the load out.

Minegar said that when the Great Lawn design was first unveiled, it really resonated with the local marketplace.

“We do contend with the heat issues, and being on grass compared to asphalt, that’s an impact from a fan comfort standpoint,” he said. “The second half of the season in Arizona, you wouldn’t want to be anyplace else. The weather is spectacular.”

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