There is no doubt about it. Expectations for our football team are high this season. The other thing that’s high are our ticket prices, but, despite that, according to UCLA Senior Associate AD Josh Rebholz’s Twitter account, there are more than 6,300 new football season ticket holders and sales of The Den passes have increased by more than 3,500 over this time last year. When all is said and done, we may very well see as many as 10,000 more fans per game at the Rose Bowl this season.
You know what that means don’t you? Of course, you do! It means that we may see as many as 10,000 more tailgaters on the golf course and other Rose Bowl parking lots!
That really got me thinking about what advice I have for the tailgating newbies.
Let’s begin at the beginning…with the basics. These are the things you absolutely MUST have in order to tailgate at all. We’ll get to the more sophisticated stuff in a minute. Right now, I’m talking about the thing that make tailgating impossible if you don’t have them.
- The Cooler
Probably the absolute, most basic thing you will need is a cooler of some kind. The cooler is the most basic of items because it keeps your food and drinks cold. Now, I don’t care if you’re buying your beverages of choice at the Vons on Fair Oaks in Pasadena. You still need a cooler to keep any leftovers cold for after the game.
You could opt for the styrofoam kind if you’re on a student’s budget. But, if you’re not, get one of the hard plastic ones. The preferable choice here is one with wheels because, at the Rose Bowl, sometimes you end up being the front car on a two-car stack and you will have to drag your cooler filled with ice and beverages to the front of your car. It’s just easier if your cooler has wheels.
- Food and Drink
Your menu for each game is one of the things you need to consider first. Are you going to go with stuff like sandwiches that don’t require any heat source or are you going to grill?
When determining your menu, you need to take into account what time you will actually get to the Rose Bowl. Then expect it to take about another 30 minutes to actually get to a parking space. The importance of this cannot be overlooked because it can severely impact your food choices.
Here’s an example: Last season, the Bruins played Washington on a Friday night with a 6pm kickoff. I knew that I probably wouldn’t get to the stadium until about 5pm, giving us just enough time to quickly eat a sandwich and start the walk to the Bowl itself in order to be there in time for kickoff. Arriving an hour before game time simply didn’t afford me the opportunity to get my grill going to make food, enjoy it and catch kickoff. Sandwiches were our best option given the timeframe we were working with.
- Your Grill
If you have decided to cook food, you will need a grill of some kind. My first grill cost me about $20 at Target one Fourth of July. That’s about as inexpensive as they come. But price isn’t the only thing to consider.
You also need to answer that all important question: Charcoal or Gas?
For the purposes of tailgating at the Rose Bowl, pick which ever one you want. It doesn’t matter. Personally, I use charcoal because charcoal imparts a flavor you just don’t get with gas. However, gas can be a little bit more convenient. It’s easy to light and easy to extinguish.
Gas has the added advantage that it tends to be the "preferred" method at any other venue in SoCal, meaning that for those times when Springsteen or some other big performer is playing at the Honda Center, the venue "rules" say gas only. Of course, I’ve never had a problem using charcoal at any venue in SoCal.
- Accessories and Supplies
This category includes just about everything else, but the most basic accessory is a lighter if you chose a charcoal grill. Some of the other basic accessories include grilling tools like tongs and/or a spatula to flip your food and fuel for your grill. If you have a charcoal grill, Home Depot and Lowe’s typically put charcoal on sale on the summer holidays so if you need some, watch their Labor Day sales. If you got a gas grill, you’ll need propane canisters or a tank, depending on the size of your grill.
That covers the absolute basics – the stuff you absolutely must have in order to enjoy yourself before and after the game.
If you don’t have those, then get shopping this weekend.
What tips do you have for first-time Rose Bowl tailgaters? Be sure to leave them in the comments below.
Next time, I’ll talk about taking the next step for all you experienced tailgaters out there.