My hometown of Buffalo, NY boasts some the NFL's finest tailgating. Visitors to our little corner of the world often marvel at the amount of snow Buffalo receives each year and at the exceptional food that can be found in local eateries all over the city. But the focus of our city, especially in the fall and winter, is our beloved Buffalo Bills. Although known for our chicken wings, which were invented at the Anchor Bar situated on Main Street in Buffalo, NY (hence the term “Buffalo Wings”), Buffalonians are huge football fans that pride themselves on parking lot tailgating and their support of the local professional football franchise, the mighty Buffalo Bills. This pride is definitely exemplified in the elaborate pregame tailgating community that's erected all over the parking lot outside Ralph Wilson Stadium on gameday.
The Buffalo Bills organization is very supportive of our propensity for putting meat to flame. Parking lots open 5 ½ hours before gametime and tailgating is encouraged. Fans are allowed to bring full-sized grills, trailers, and fit pits as long as they make sure to extinguish the embers before departing. The official parking lots around the stadium are enormous and offer enough space to accommodate 12,000 cars ($25.00 per car) and 300 buses ($60.00 per bus). There are also several private lots off the stadium grounds that are maintained by locals to accommodate any spillover. In any case, unlike most stadiums in the league where prepaid parking is a necessity, in Buffalo you can show up on gameday and expect to find a spot. Ralph Wilson Stadium also has an RV parking lot that opens as early as Friday evening to allow tailgaters the option of tailgating throughout the weekend. Early entry cost is $50.00, with gameday entry priced at $40.00 per RV. Adjacent to the RV lot is a concrete comfort station called the Bills Bathhouse Facility. This facility is heated throughout the weekend and has showers, restrooms, and changing areas available for fan use. The Bills Bathhouse is also meticulously maintained and cleaned by Ralph Wilson Stadim staffers throughout the weekend, which is definitely a plus.
Gameday itself brings its own set of stadium sponsored activities that Bills fans may want to check out and all are FREE to enjoy. The 97 Rock Tailgate Zone is located in Lot 2 across from the stadium and features live music, prize giveaways, and photo opportunities with the Buffalo Jills. It kicks off 4 hours prior to game time and is a great place to meet up with friends before the game. Another activity the kids might want to check out is the Gameday Experience over at the Ralph Wilson Fieldhouse, which is considered the largest indoor tailgate party in the NFL. The Fieldhouse opens its doors 3 ½ hours before kickoff as the interior of this tremendous facility is transformed into a huge celebration of the game of professional football. The Gameday Experience is modeled after the NFL Experience that's offered to football fans during the week of the Super Bowl. Fans can participate in interactive games including punt, pass, and kick drills as well as catch up with Buffalo Bills Alumni and Buffalo Jills cheerleaders. There's also PeeWee football games that are scheduled throughout the morning, showcasing homegrown talent from the western New York area. The “Measure up to the Pros” exhibit enables fans to compare themselves to current Bills players by placing hands and feet into molds of current Bills players such as Marshawn Lynch and Trent Edwards. All in all it's a great place to spend a couple hours before gametime.
During the game, Labatt's sponsors their Labatt's Blue Zone which is a hospitality area located behind section 306/307 in the upper deck. It opens 1 ½ hours prior to kickoff and closes shortly after halftime, but prizes, food, a live deejay, and that ice cold beverage of choice, some Labatt's Blue are all available until close. After the game most folks usually return to the parking lot to fire up the grill for some post game celebrating – win or lose. If you're interested in further details on the city of Buffalo or on tailgating at Ralph Wilson Stadium be sure to visit my website, http://www.nflfootballstadiums.com/Ralphwilson.htm, for more information.
- Hans Steiniger for TicketCity