Cashing in on fall’s football frenzy
Each year, football superfans wait impatiently for the game schedules of college and professional teams to be released. Each spring, anticipation is rife. Once released, fans can get down to the serious business of planning out their fall season tradition — tailgating.
Tailgating is no longer just a few burgers — or brats, if you’re in Wisconsin — on the small charcoal grill in the parking lot at the stadium before the game. Today, tailgating means big-time grills, serious cooking equipment, professional catering, and having tables and chairs for hundreds of your closest friends. Many have generators and flat-screen TVs for those who missed out on tickets to get inside the stadium.
Rental stores are right there, every year, providing all of that equipment and more. Many now have packages they sell for corporate and private parties. The big games — hotly contested rivalries, especially — draw busloads of fans and that makes tailgating some of the best word-of-mouth advertising one can get.
For instance, each year when the University of Florida Gators and the University of Georgia Bulldogs match up, thousands of fans descend on the venue, creating what in the past has been informally called the “world’s largest cocktail party,” according to Internet sources. Played on neutral ground in Jacksonville, Fla., nearly every year since 1915, the October game is almost a city holiday and tailgating starts early.
“We probably do five or six large tents for that event,” says Jeff Crotto, president, All About Events, Jacksonville.
“We have a couple that are 600 sq. ft., a couple of 1,000 sq. ft., one that is about 1,500 sq. ft. and the big one, which is about 9,600 total sq. ft. We also do tables, chairs, staging and coolers,” Crotto says.
“The larger tents are usually for groups that get together and pitch in for the tent, as well as portable toilets and generators. A lot of people have the event catered or have people cooking on site. There is one group of three guys that does major onsite tailgate events for Georgia. That’s who the 9,600-sq.-ft. tenting area is for. This last year, they had 2,000 people and 35 busses come in with students from the University of Georgia. Starting at about 9 or 10 a.m., they provide food and bands, then have TVs available for those who don’t have tickets,” he says.
“The game is usually the last weekend in October and it usually starts about 3:30 p.m. We set up tents for it starting the Wednesday before and finish up on Friday. Typically on Saturday morning, we drop off tables and chairs between 6 and 7 a.m., and tailgaters are there already, starting to cook. After the game, it clears out pretty quickly. By 10 p.m. it’s pretty clear. We get the tables and chairs out Saturday night, as well as the tents adjacent to the stadium, and we get the remainder the next day,” Crotto says.
Up north, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is famous for its fan fervor over Badger football. In 2012, the November game between the Badgers and the Ohio State Buckeyes brought the multitudes to Madison’s Camp Randall stadium. “It was crazy,” says Robert Copley, account manager, Event Essentials/A to Z RentAll and Sales, Windsor/Madison, Wis.
“Most of our tailgating events are for corporate clients and they range from 200 to 250 people. There are occasions where we have a smaller corporate event with 50 people. Customers begin booking events when the football schedule comes out. We have some events that have been booked since April,” Copley says.
“For tailgating, we provide tables, chairs, lighting, TVs and sound systems. This requires a generator, so we provide power on site as well. We also do linen rentals, gas grills, charcoal grills and tent heaters. For University of Wisconsin-Madison, we do frame tents and pole tents, depending on the site location on campus. We weight all our tents with concrete and tents range from 20-ft.-by-20-ft. marquee tents to 40- and 60-ft.-wide tents,” he says.
Grill size is another consideration for rentals. Gerry Donner, sales/marketing manager, Region Welding of Missouri, Union, Mo., which manufactures towable grills, says options to consider include propane or gas, and a wide range in serving size capacity depending on a customer’s event. “Busch Stadium uses our grills for many events,” she says.
Chris Strickland, operations manager, Game Day Tents, Tuscaloosa, Ala., says the biggest games the company handles are Auburn University versus University of Alabama, and Louisiana State University (LSU) versus Alabama.
“We rent tents, cocktail tables, 6-ft. plastic tables, outdoor carpeting, 8-ft. wooden tables, tailgate chairs with our logo on the back, bars and TVs. These are rented in packages, not individually. The packages also include plastic cups, paper plates, napkins, forks, knives, spoons, coolers and ice,” Strickland says.
“A lot of our premium ‘1st Down’ packages are purchased by corporations that use them for marketing purposes. Our ‘2nd Down,’ ‘3rd Down’ and University of Alabama packages are popular with families and groups of friends looking for a stress free option for tailgating,” he says.
The company lists all the packages and availability on its website. By early July, several were already listed as “limited.”
“The majority of the customers reserve their tents at least two months out from the first game,” Strickland says. “We start really promoting and advertising for the upcoming season prior to the spring football game at University of Alabama, called A-Day. The week after A-Day, we can’t answer the phone fast enough.”
For professional football games, the tailgating phenomenon is even bigger. Brian Jenkins, owner, Dallas Party Tent and Event, Arlington, Texas, says the company’s location has made a huge impact on the amount of tailgating events they do.
“Since we have contracts where we are the ‘exclusive tent provider’ for certain sports franchises to include the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, Oklahoma State University and more, we do a lot of larger tents for the stadiums and for their alumni tailgating parties,” Jenkins says.
“Because of our close proximity to several major universities — including the University of Texas, University of Houston, Southern Methodist University, Oklahoma University, as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans — we have added a tailgate package on our website,” Jenkins says.
“The package includes a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. frame tent, two 8-ft. tables with disposable linen in team colors and 15 brown folding chairs at a 20 percent savings. They can also add a gas generator and a 32-in. plasma TV that connects to the tent legs with a digital antenna for an extra discounted charge. We are expecting this to be a big hit for the upcoming season,” he says.
Check regulations and routes for tailgating rental
Chris Strickland, operations manager, Game Day Tents, Tuscaloosa, Ala., says the company has several rules to consider when renting for tailgating at the university.
“The University of Alabama has very strict rules concerning the use of the Quad,” he says. “Ground permits are required. We can’t erect tents or unload our inventory until a certain time. This puts a real rush on getting the tents, tables, chairs and everything set up by the deadline. We are encouraged to limit the use of motorized vehicles to the sidewalks,” he says.
“We are required to attend a post-game debrief on the Tuesday after every game. We had to meet with the grounds department to locate electrical lines and water lines to prevent damage when staking tents. The University doesn’t permit certain types of signage on the tents. Take down of the tents and removal of all equipment must be completed by a certain time on Sunday,” he says.
Deliveries also may be regulated. Brian Jenkins, owner, Dallas Party Tent and Event, Arlington, Texas, says each stadium is different. “Cowboys Stadium rentals all must go through the Stadium. Most of the colleges and universities are less stringent on these requirements,” he says.
Also, consider the need for tent permitting. Robert Copley, account manager, Event Essentials/A to Z RentAll and Sales, Windsor/Madison, Wis., says his company has information on its tents filed with the City of Madison, which helps streamline the process of getting a tent permit.
“The City of Madison requires tents over 400 sq. ft. to have a tent permit. Every year, usually in June, we update our certification with the city, so they have our information on file. If a customer of ours has an event within city limits, it’s available. There’s also a permit fee and form the customer has to fill out and pay, and we guide them through that process. Most of our customers are pretty good about it,” Copley says.
Copley says another consideration is delivery routes, especially in larger cities. “I’ve been on the delivery side of things and now I’m on the ordering side of things. I try to get as much detail from customers, even if it’s for a local corporate event. You can’t always pick up rented items the day after the event, because the customer may not own the parking lot or have a secure place for the equipment. Details are extremely important for timing, parking and driving. Our guys know which roads are open and closed before, during and after the game, where traffic is going afterwards and which streets to avoid. We need to know that, so we can plan pick up equipment around those issues,” he says.