The Art of the Tailgate
Before University of Arizona home football games, a small city pops up next to the stadium ready to prepare the faithful for kickoff
Starting six hours before kickoff and continuing until the players come through the tunnel to the sound of pyrotechnics and an ecstatic crowd, tailgating before a University of Arizona football game is serious business. As the lawns around Arizona Stadium fill up with tents, trailers, grills, RVs and what sometimes seems like the contents of some fans’ living rooms, the number of fans - generally decked in red, with moments of blue, but never, never maroon nor gold – multiply. It’s game day and for alumni and the devoted supporters of the Arizona Wildcats, there’s no better place to be than with friends, family and fans tailgating.
Walking around, the fall spectacle is quite a sight. A giant Wildcat helmet to the left, a giant red double-decker bus (imported from England) to the right. Getting a pass to tailgate isn’t easy - 250 passes are available to season-ticket holders and Wildcat Club members, and there’s generally a waiting list - so those lucky enough to get a spot tend to take the responsibility of entertaining the faithful seriously. Talk to the old-school tailgaters and they’ll tell you stories of rescheduled weddings, ducking out of kids’ soccer games, overnight drives and the determination to be at every game.
Arizona Wildcat Football Home Schedule
all games at Arizona Stadium
go to www.ArizonaWildcats.com for tickets and game times
Sept. 10 vs. Grambling State
Sept. 17 vs. Hawaii
Sept. 24 vs. Washington
Oct. 15 vs. Southern California (Family Weekend)
Oct. 29 vs. Stanford (Homecoming)
Nov. 12 vs. Colorado
Nov. 25 vs. Arizona State
For those who drive down from Phoenix or elsewhere in Arizona, trek in from points out of state, or even local fans, the game day experience is a special one. For Tucsonan Jason Ground, it’s an opportunity to connect his own childhood past to his parenting present: “I've been tailgating since age 5. My earliest memory is pretending to be Theopolis "T" Bell trying to elude my dad on the wet grass of the Mall. Now it's my turn to chase my sons and their friends.”
For others, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with former classmates and friends they may not see during the offseason. If you have some connection to the University of Arizona, walk around the lawns for a bit. You’ll likely hear your name called out from under a tent somewhere or see a familiar face in the crowd. Tailgating is about the anticipation ahead of a big game, but it’s also about community. Even if you didn’t come with a large group of friends, the bond of common fandom will likely mean you have a hot dog in one hand and a beverage in the other soon enough.
Arizona football is on a roll in the Rich Rodriguez era. Having played in 4 straight bowl games (a school record) with 33 wins over those seasons (also a record) means that Wildcat football is here to stay. Expect a packed stadium full of enthusiastic fans ready to cheer on each touchdown or stellar defensive play, especially on November 25 when the Territorial Cup matchup against ASU returns to Tucson. Just as much as the games, however, Wildcat fans will be looking forward to the pre-party.
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