What did Aaron Rodgers say earlier this year about life being “a beautiful mystery?”
Well, that oddly hilarious phrase applies to more than just the future of the Green Bay Packers quarterback. It also aptly describes to the future of tailgate parties at Las Vegas Raiders home games as this will be the first season in which fans will attend Raiders games at the awesome new Allegiant Stadium.
What will the tailgate scene be like off the Vegas Strip? Who knows in the long run? The Raiders have hosted just three games in Vegas, so we really don’t know.
But we do know this — the bar is high. Tailgate parties in Oakland were simply epic. EPIC.
There are some first-rate tailgate spots in the NFL. I’ve covered games in every city in the league, so I have a good feel for it. The whiff of BBQ in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot in Kansas City is intoxicating. The brat fest at the Lambeau Field in Green Bay can’t be missed. The party in Orchard Park at Buffalo Bills’ games starts in the early morning, then lasts all day and into the night.
Those are great NFL tailgate experiences.
But the Oakland tailgate life could go toe-to-toe with any of those atmospheres. Frankly, the pre-game parking lot scene in Oakland was the best part of the game-day experience. I’ll always cherish the memories of so many great events there.
I spent Christmas Eve of my first year of marriage at a Raiders tailgate party with my new wife’s family. Her uncle Gil helped run an elaborate tailgate party at the Oakland Coliseum for years. And, when I say elaborate, this party was a well engineered throwdown. We’re talking 20 to 30 different food options. And the beverages? Well, let’s just say I enjoyed the games I went to as a spectator a little more than the countless games I went to as a working media member ... turkey, sausages, tri-tip, burgers, hot dogs, carne asada (an Oakland parking lot specialty), stuffing, mac and cheese, brownies ... it was all there. Every week. And there were more than two thousand similar parties going at the same time.
With a passionate, loyal and deep Latino fan base, Raiders’ tailgate parties also featured many Mexican food delights and often mariachi bands would stroll through the parking lot to entertain the appreciative masses.
Talk about a party.
Every time I went to cover a game in Oakland, I would bring my media friends out to the tailgate parties and the smiles on their faces would last the rest of the day. So would the full feeling in their stomachs.
How cool were the Oakland Raiders tailgate parties? How about Ken “Snake” Stabler and Guy Fieri cool?
That brings us back to the present. What will it be like in Vegas?
Honestly, it probably won’t be the same. The Oakland Coliseum was a dump, but the parking lot was perfect for tailgate parties. Things will be tighter around Allegiant Stadium and there won’t be as much room to hang out.
But the Raiders were well aware of the importance of tailgating to their fan base, so they tried their best to accommodate as much as tailgating as possible close to the stadium.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there are 6,500 tailgating spots in and near Allegiant Stadium. The Oakland Coliseum had about 9,000 spots and hosted an average of 2,500 tailgate parties a game, according to the report.
So, naturally, the Vegas Raiders tailgate scene will be smaller than it was in the Bay Area. But that doesn’t mean it can’t become epic as well. No one parties like the Raider Nation — and surely one of the greatest fan traditions of this fan base will find a way to be special at the team’s new home.