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NFL

How much is tailgate parking at SoFi Stadium? Is tailgating allowed for the Super Bowl?

The NFL is about so much more than just the game in the stadium. The pageantry, music and tailgate parties are the ties that bind communities together

Update:
An Air China jetliner plane flies over SoFi Stadium, the host venue for Super Bowl LVI, ahead of the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers in Inglewood, California, U.S., January 30, 2022. REUTERS/Bing Guan
BING GUANREUTERS

As an American living in Europe, I often get asked questions about the NFL that range from downright insulting all the way to beard-stroking wonder. Most of the time you can make a connection, however simplistic, with some European frame of reference. No, American football isn’t just “rugby with pads”. Yes, the clock stops when the ball goes out of play. Yes, it is “a bit too stop/start” but the game isn’t about flow, it’s about tactics. Don’t look at it from a soccer frame of reference. And then I have to explain the tailgating experience.

What is tailgating?

The tailgate party, to give it the correct title, is as simple as it sounds. The tailgate of a pickup truck is lowered, and people gather around and have a party. Think of it as a “car boot sale” but instead of having a garage sale out of the back of your car, you have a barbecue and beer.

Although the Green Bay Packers claim to have started the tradition in the NFL, like virtually every other part of the game, it actually stemmed from the college towns. Long before there was a professional football league, the game was played by amateur student athletes all around the country. While it may have started as a simple necessity, with family and friends gathering to have a bite to eat before the gates opened, it has evolved, like all great parties, to become the primary focus of the day.

In smaller college towns, the tailgate is where all of the fun happens. The game is in a very distant second place. In the NFL, this is less the case than with smaller colleges, but the tailgate still makes up at least 50% of the fun.

Although NFL stadiums have gotten better in recent years at giving a nod to local culture and cuisine, it must be remembered that they are catering for a sizeable out-of-town palate and so the food on offer is homogenized. The last time I was in the Superdome, they were selling individual pizzas in the stands and your standard burger and hot dog in the concession area. They had interesting names like the “Dome Dog” and the “Double Stack Bacon Jam Burger” but in the end it was just the same old, same old. Not so outside. Crawfish boils, smoked boudin, fried catfish and hush puppies were some of the tailgate fare around us.

There is an economic element to the allure of tailgating as well. If you want a beer in the stands, it will almost certainly be nothing more flavorful than a Miller Lite, that is to say, basically water. Thank God America hasn’t gone down the European road of forbidding beer in the stands, but in selling you a Miller Lite, it amounts to basically the same thing. And for the privilege of this “beer”? $11.50

Outside there are ice chests full of Abita, Jax, NOLA blonde ale, and Parish stout. Swing by the grocery store on your way in and you can have a much better experience for a fraction of the price.

Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium

The prices at the Superdome might make local eyes water but it pales in comparison to the “other LA”. Tailgating fans in southern California are really raked over the coals, paying $90 for a regular car and $225 for an oversize vehicle to tailgate. Tailgating is only allowed in the Pink Zone parking and these prices will double or triple for big games. There have been reports of people paying upwards of $600 to park at the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.

If you are willing to shell out that kind of money for a “once in a lifetime” experience of tailgating at the Super Bowl, there is some bad news. You can’t. Since 2007, the NFL has banned tailgating at the Super Bowl. Using “security risks” as the excuse, it is really more to do with the risk to the corporate sponsors’ bottom line. Fans and media alike are united in their outrage at the shameless assault on tradition and common sense that the NFL has shown in this issue, but when it comes to brand protection, nobody does it better than the NFL. So you had better get something to eat before you go to the game, unless you are ok with an $8 hot dog.

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