The Carolina Panthers have one of the most unusual stadiums in the NFL. Unlike most stadiums, Bank of America is located in the heart of a downtown area with no official parking lot (not counting the small one reserved for players, staff and bigwigs of the team).
It’s a cool arrangement, because the stadium feels like just another corner shop in the downtown area. You step out of your condo or Starbucks, walk a few blocks, and you’re inside a 70,000-seat stadium.
It also has its drawbacks. Unlike stadiums with vast parking lots that confine tailgating and create an almost carnival-like atmosphere, tailgating at a Panthers game means everyone is spread out in grassy areas, random parking lots and side streets. It’s disjointed for sure, but it’s all we have.
How can we make the most of the tailgating experience at Panthers games? In anticipation of the first home game Sunday against the Houston Texans, I put together this list of 12 tailgating hacks.
(1) Find an existing tailgating group and join the fun. Perhaps the longest running and best knows is the PantherFanz Tailgating Club. You can also hit the WFNZ Doghouse at the corner of Mint and Morehead.
(4) Find the parking lot of a business near the stadium and call ahead. Reserve a space so you’ll know how much room you’ll have to spread out.
(5) Get there early. It will take a while to get set up, cook, eat, and clean. You’ll need to about 45 minutes to an hour to get into the stadium so plan accordingly.
(6) Don’t go too crazy at first. If you’re new to tailgating, start with a small grill and do hotdogs.
(7) Better yet, hit up Bojangles’ or your favorite barbecue joint for take out. No cooking, very little clean up.
(8) Bring a Bluetooth speaker for some tunes and save the battery of your car. (Pro tip: No ballads should ever be played on game day.)
(9) Bring a football or cornhole to stay entertained. Sitting around is fun, but doing something is more fun.
(10) Pack the stuff you’ll need but you probably won’t think about such as paper plates and towels, plastic forks, spoons and cups, trash bags, salt and pepper and sunscreen.
(11) Cook the night before. Yes, it’s fun to grill on game day. But most people don’t have the time to start cooking at 8 a.m. on a Sunday. Slow cook or smoke a pork shoulder the night before and keep it hot on game day in tinfoil containers.
(12) Finally – and this should go without saying – don’t get hammered at the tailgate. Pace yourself because it’s going to be a long day.
(Photo credit: James Willamor via Flickr)