We must admit there’s nothing more Americana when it comes to sports than a good old fashioned tailgate party.
Who hasn’t stood in an open field or stadium parking lot and feasted on wings, Swedish meatballs, stuffed breads and barbeque on a pleasant, perhaps nippy Saturday or Sunday before a college or NFL football game?
It’s part of what defines us as a society. We converse. We nibble. We tend to grills. We toss around footballs and light candelabras and pass around cookies and brownies.
Of course, there’s something else some of us do at these parties. We drink. And the problem is, some of us drink excessively and eventually make jerks of ourselves to the point security is called. And then things get messy.
Trying to create an environment that’s pleasant and safe for their fans is an on-going challenge for colleges and professional teams. And now the NFL’s Buffalo Bills believe they have figured out how to do it and keep everyone happy at the same time.
“They (fans) know how to tailgate and have a good time,” Andy Major, the Bills’ vice president of operations and guest experiences, told the Buffalo News. “We know we have great fans. …but there are a few who make a big stink out there — a few knuckleheads who wreck it.
“The viral videos on social media, it’s embarrassing when we see that. It affects the community, affects the team negatively.”
And so here is what the Bills plan to do about it: They’ve introduced an updated tailgate safety policy and created something they’ve called “Tailgate Village.”
Henceforth, fans who travel by bus or limo and are interested in partying like is 2019, will be required to purchase a package. A 20-person vehicle is $300 ($15 per person), a 40-person vehicle $600 and 60-person vehicle $900.
“We heard from the bus and limo companies,” said Major. ‘Hey, I don’t know if I want to bring a bus here again.’ ”
The Bills have hired a company that choreographs tailgating parties for a living. It’s just one of the ways the team has decided to deal with disorderly behavior that could ruin the day for everyone around them.
“Our No. 1 concern as an organization is fan safety,” said Major. “When you’re seeing what was happening in the bus lot the last couple seasons, especially last year, it gets very concerning. It’s dangerous behavior, not just negative fan behavior. It’s dangerous to security, the sheriffs and staff who are trying to police things.”
Some things will not change. Fans can bring stuff to eat and drink,, but the Village will resemble more of a party venue than before. It will also be able to accommodate 4,000 fans. That’s a lot of Bud Light.
Included in the tailgate packages is a tent and tables and chairs. The company will even help fans set up the place. If needed, fans can accessorize with a la carte items such as more tables and chairs, grills, televisions and full catering options, including beverages.
If the fans do not want to tailgate, if for some strange reason they are there only to see the Bills finally kick Tom Brady’s GOAT ass, the buses and vans and get in by buying a $100 parking pass.
How bad has fan behavior been in the past? Did you see the dude on the Deadspin video who jumped off the bus and into the food-covered table? Yeah, that was really funny, wasn’t it?
Starting next year, if you to party, you will have to be inside the Village. No food and beverages will be allowed outside of the safe zone
“This whole thing evolved from feedback,” Major said.
Along with the party company’s help, the Bills worked with the Limousine-Bus-Taxi Operators of Upstate New York, Erie County Sheriff’s Office and Orchard Park Police Department to develop the new policy.
“The concern was from a fan-safety standpoint, and trying to enhance the fan experience in the bus lot for everybody,” Major said. “This really helps us with the safety factor. Buffalo fans – we’ve got the best fans in the NFL. They know how to tailgate and have a good time. We’re just trying to make it safe and encourage a responsible atmosphere that’s fun for everyone.”
Of course, these big plans do nothing to help curb the problems caused by some fans traveling in a smaller groups. Limos carrying 11 or less will not be subject to the tailgate package requirement and can continue to park in their same spots and imbibe at whatever pace they want.
The bottom line is, it’s a start by an organization trying to do the right thing. Now all the Bills need is for some of their fans to do the same thing.