SBJ/Sept. 30-Oct. 7, 2013/NFL Stadium Experience

Nothing like a good tailgate

For some fans, it’s just not a football game without tailgating beforehand.

In markets such as Kansas City, Green Bay and Philadelphia, tailgating is simply ingrained as part of the game experience — if not the most important part for some fans. As our reporter in Philly put it, “It’s an absolutely vibrant tailgating scene, filled with colorful characters in the parking lots. … With such a vibrant fan base and tailgate scene, the Eagles don’t need to do much.”

It wasn’t always that way, but the Eagles eventually succumbed to the inevitable.

The Eagles have expanded their game-day events into the parking lots.
Photo by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
“We tried to bring people into our facility early,” acknowledged Ari Roitman, the Eagles’ senior vice president of business. “But the tailgating is such a strong tradition, we learned we are not going to change that behavior. … We decided to embrace it and enhance it and connect better with those fans.”

That has caused the Eagles to expand their game-day offerings into the parking lots, trying to give fans something they can’t get at home.

“We’re focused on enhancing our tailgating experience,” Roitman said. “So we are taking stuff like our cheerleaders, our drum line, our pep band, some alumni players and putting them out in the parking lots as early as 10:30 a.m. for a 1 o’clock game. It is about offering additional touch points for fans.”

While some franchises embrace tailgating, others continue to try new ways to attract fans away from the parking lots to get them into their stadiums and engaged sooner.

One of the most interesting things during the Jets’ game-day experience actually comes before the game. At 10 a.m., the Jets had four yellow school buses take the team around the parking lot before disembarking at the MetLife gate at 10:30. The players then handed out coins with their name and number on them — the team hopes fans will seek to collect all 53 — before being led into the stadium by the Aviators, the team’s new marching band.

This kind of scene is common in the college ranks, but this is thought to be the first time an NFL team has done it.

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