How Much? Football Tailgating for $28 a Person

August 9, 2016

With football season nearing, Denver fans are gearing up to watch their beloved Broncos defend their hard-fought championship. Football season is unlike any other sport because with only 16 games to play, the stakes are incredibly high. Of the 16 games the Broncos will play this year, eight will be at home. If you’ve never been to a game in person, it’s one of the great experiences in Colorado sports. From the pre-game ceremonies complete with skydivers and player introductions, to nearly 80,000 fans roaring after a big 4th quarter score, it’s rare to have a bad time at a game—even when they lose.

But the game itself is only one part of the live football experience. A lot of the fun of football is had well before fans enter the stadium. The time honored tradition of tailgating is synonymous with warm late summer afternoons and crisp fall mornings. And tailgating isn’t just something you do on a whim; no, it’s both an art and a science, with some super fans taking it just as seriously (if not more so) than the game itself.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to go ahead and assume you already have tickets. If you don’t, you can check out the official NFL Ticket Exchange, or sites like StubHub, TicketZoom and others (make sure you protect yourself from counterfeit tickets though!) We’ve posted about football and other sports before, so make sure you check that out as well.

Parking - $20 per car or $5 per person

Tailgating by definition means you’re hanging out next to your car, so parking is an unfortunate reality. Fortunately, tailgating usually means you’re getting down there pretty early. Some of the best tailgating lots are closer to the Pepsi Center than Mile High (it will always be Mile High to true fans no matter what it’s called at any given moment) and they’re way easier to get out of when the game is over. Another advantage of getting there early is finding a good spot—preferably very close to the exit of the lot so you can hit the road quickly. If you want to read up on some spots that work for you, there are good guides to all things Broncos parking on the web.

Drinks - $21

This is Colorado, so of course good beer is vital to the tailgating experience. If you want to go cheaper, that’s your prerogative, but this is one area where you might want to go all-out. A 12-pack of the good stuff usually runs $16 or more, and of course you’re going to need ice. Veteran tailgaters know you can turn the box of beer into a cooler by dumping the ice in there, so no need to buy an extra one (unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want a box cooler, in which case, let’s face it, tailgating may not be for you). Throw in an extra $5 for a 12-pack of some soda too. Oh yeah, and bring your own refillable water bottles to save some money and plastic.

The Grill (plus charcoal) - $37

If you’re tailgating and you’re not grilling, are you really tailgating? Stop. Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question. Of course grilling is the center of the tailgate experience. But finding the right grill can be a challenge. You can easily go wrong by spending upwards of $100 or more on a gas grill. Is it easier? Maybe, but is it really worth spending the equivalent of a ticket to the game on it? That was another rhetorical question, guys. Please. A ten second Google search came up with a highly rated mini charcoal grill for $30 (including shipping), and you can get a bag of perfectly suitable charcoal for $7 or less. Do your research and you might even be able to find a better deal; or if you already have a grill small enough to haul to the parking lot, even better.

Food - $35

So what are you going to grill? Make sure you hold on to some of the weekly specials mailed to you by the various grocery chains every week instead of recycling them right away, or you can check them out online. Just using this week’s King Sooper’s circular, I’ve planned out a killer tailgating menu:

  • 2 lbs of 85% lean ground angus beef for burgers: $7.50
  • Sliced cheese for cheeseburgers: $2.00
  • 6 pack of hot dogs: $3.00
  • 8 pack of hamburger buns: $1.00
  • 8 pack of hot dog buns (there’s always two extra hot dog buns!): $1.00
  • 5 ears of corn on the cob: $2.00
  • 1 roll of tin foil for corn: $2.00
  • 2 bags of chips/snacks: $5.00
  • 1 tray of brownies for dessert: $3.50
  • Plastic silverware, paper plates, paper towels: $8.00

Final Tally

Parking – depending on which lot you pick: up to $20 ($5 per person)

Drinks – good beer and name brand soft drinks: $21

The Grill – a well-reviewed grill (plus shipping) and a bag of charcoal: $37

Food – a classic tailgating menu with burgers, hot dogs, sides, and dessert: $35

Total - $113

Make your tailgate experience complete by bringing your radio to listen to the early games (or a TV with an antenna to watch if you’ve got the right set-up in your car!) Also some speakers to hook up to your phone so you can bust out the jams isn’t a bad idea. Plus, bring your camping or folding chairs, a table if you have one, and potentially layers if the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to hold. Oh yeah, and a football! Parking lot tailgate catch can be the highlight of the day. More than anything, have fun, and go Broncos!