Tailgating Guide to Fall 2023

University+students+tailgate+before+the+homecoming+game+against+Minnesota+on+Oct.+26.

Angel Saldivar

University students tailgate before the homecoming game against Minnesota on Oct. 26.

By Ben Fader, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s safe to say that Illinois football is back, with a golden opportunity to have their best season since 2007. After a surprising year where the Illini reached their first bowl game since 2019 and spent several weeks ranked in the AP poll, there is excitement surrounding the program that we haven’t seen in a long time. 

The Illinois Athletics ticket office announced that 93% of season ticket holders renewed their plans for the upcoming season, and season tickets, in general, are up 300%. With the emergence of a quality program and fans packing the stands once again, tailgating is sure to be a blast.

Grange Grove

The center of the action, Grange Grove, opens at 7 a.m. on game days and is party central for most of the day. Events start three hours before kickoff, including music, a pregame radio show, the team merchandise store, and tailgating in the grass. Occasionally the Kids Zone and Autograph tent also opens up for additional fun. Located next to the west side of the stadium, Grange Grove is often full until after the games, making it a fun time even if you don’t have tickets.

Where to go

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    Most of the surrounding lots are open to partiers, but Lot 31 and Lot 42 attract a lot of tailgaters, with spots available for cars, RVs and oversized vehicles. Both lots are close to the stadium, but 31 is just across the street from Grange Grove, making it the epicenter of Illinois football tailgating.  

    To see the different locations, visit this website showing the locations of every lot around the stadium. Fans can also purchase parking tickets beforehand, getting spots in lots 44, 49 and research park. These locations are a little farther away from the stadium, but there are occasional golf carts and shuttles to take small groups to the stadium.

    What to Bring

    Anything you want? It’s really up to what you like. Common things to bring include a tent for shade, chairs to lounge in, food, a grill, a cooler and a speaker. That pretty much includes the basics for everyone to gather around for some burgers and dogs while socializing with tunes in the background. 

    Most tailgates prefer grilling meat, but sandwiches, chips and dip, fruit and more are other popular things to indulge in. Stocking the cooler with drinks is important as well, especially for the first part of the season when the weather is still scorching. Water, sodas and beer are fan favorites for refreshing and fun beverages before a game. 

    While waiting for the food to cook and the game to start, many fans also bring games to keep themselves busy. Cornhole and spike ball are great, and even a football to throw around the lot as well. If you really want to show your Illinois pride, bring Illini flags, blankets and more to deck your entire area out with the orange and blue. 

    When to arrive

    Tailgating can start at any time, but it’s best to arrive around three hours prior to kickoff. This will give you enough time to cook your food and hang out with friends and family before the game. If you are having too much fun and lose track of time, Illinois football has you covered. Beginning last year, the Illini began setting off fireworks at the 60-minute and 25-minute marks before kickoff. The display gave fans warnings that the game was approaching, so they could begin packing up their tailgates and heading into the stadium.

    Still, there’s no pressure to be in the game right at kickoff. Tailgating is about having fun, so there is no need to rush into the stadium, especially if you aren’t sitting with everyone at the tailgate. So party hard this year, pack Memorial Stadium and cheer the Illini on to more wins.

     

    @benfader7

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