Monday, October 31, 2011

Gram's Gameday

I woke up early on Sunday morning, October 30, 2011, game day for the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was a beautiful fall morning, so I decided to walk around the perimeter of Reliant Park and see how Houston was preparing for the game. 

As I walked along Holly Hall on my way to Fannin Street, I could see the parking signs already in place. 

People start lining up along Holly Hall as early as 5 a.m., ready to drive straight into Reliant Park. They are waved to their parking places by these employees. As you can see, it was still pretty chilly at 8:30 a.m.

These are just two of the hundreds of employees who work hard at Reliant Park to make gameday fun for the fans. I'd like to give a special shout out to the dedicated workers in Guest Services, many of whom serve as concierges on gameday and do everything from check strollers to answer questions about where you can find your seat, restrooms, food & beverages, etc., etc., etc.

According to Reliant Park's Web site, there are 97,000 square feet of natural grass playing surface inside Reliant Stadium. The Fannin Street side of Reliant Park is home to the stadium's turf farm. Here you can see how the "natural grass" is grown.

And here's the equipment that moves the "natural grass" onto the playing field.

As I continued walking south along Fannin Street, I met up with a fan who said he had scored a seat on the 4th row.  He told me he had decorated this T-shirt himself so that he would be sure to stand out when the TV cameras panned in his direction. Underneath the T-shirt was another T-shirt -- his Battle Red T-shirt.

I turned the corner and walked west along the 610 feeder road. Ahead of me was another reminder that it was Battle Red Day.

As I looked through the fence around Reliant Park, I watched lots of little Schaubs (8) and Fosters (23) tossing footballs in the parking lots.

I turned right onto Kirby and walked north.  Ahead and to my right was Reliant Stadium in all its glory. Almost invisible to the right was the Astrodome, the 8th Wonder of the World when it opened on April 9, 1965. Go to Astrodome Options and cast your vote for the future of this amazing structure.

It was here in the Platinum parking lot that I spotted some serious tailgaters. According to folks I talked to, they either stay in the tailgating area for the entire game and never use their seats or they go in and out of the stadium. And all their friends (and new best friends) are welcome to join them.

To tailgate at Reliant Park, you must be a season ticket holder. Then you can purchase Tailgate Guest Tickets for folks who can tailgate with you, but who cannot go into the stadium unless they have a gameday ticket.

I stopped and looked inside the fence at this amazing setup. See the large Texans metal tub, ready to be filled with ice to cool down the beer. Cans of fruit juice sit under the table.

There were three-to-four rows of seats, appropriately covered in Battle Red. The seats faced a large TV screen. The boom boxes were still in an adjacent SUV, ready to be hooked up.

Notice the spiders hanging down from the sides of the tent and the green and orange bowls ready to be filled up with Halloween treats. The long tables were even covered with Halloween tablecloths.


A tailgater saw me peering through the fence and came up and answered all my questions: This tailgate area belongs to Inspectorate; they have been setting up here for years; no, not everyone who joined them had a game ticket; and yes, they'd feed anyone who came by to say "Howdy," including me if I was hungry. Sometimes, 100 people gather around during the game. And, after the game, they stay and party until about 9 p.m. -- a great way to celebrate a win, mourn a loss, and wait for the traffic to die down.

He even offered me an extra Tailgate Guest Ticket if I wanted to come back later. Feeling pretty perky as I was half way through my brisk morning walk, I said "thank you" and accepted the ticket, which he passed to me through the fence. 

My plan was to head home, eat a hearty breakfast, and return to join my "new best friends" in time for kickoff.

I hurried north on Kirby to La Concha and turned right, eager to get home. I passed several office buildings whose parking lots were open for "Event" parking at $20-$30/car. Farther east on La Concha were cars belonging to people smart enough to know that there is free parking on both sides of the street. You can thank me later if you didn't know this and decide to check it out for the Cleveland Browns game on November 6.

A Dad and his son were walking toward me on their way to the stadium. The boy held a homemade sign that announced that he was collecting High 5s and it was his birthday. When I stopped to congratulate him on his sign (and take the photos below), he told me it was his 7th birthday. His Dad said that they hoped to be on the field at half-time with the sign. Another Wow!



I was hungry and tired and almost back to Fannin when I spotted a tent set up on the north side of La Concha, complete with a Direct TV satellite dish. Why would anyone want to tailgate so far away from the stadium? Turns out this tent belongs to some of the guys who hawk beer inside the stadium during the game. They hang out here before the game and after the game. And just like the folks in the Platinum lot, they welcome all comers. After all, Texas does mean friendly.

The YouTube video I shot proves that this grandma needs to work harder on her social media skills. Tailgating on La Concha is the end of the video I thought I was shooting. Sorry, guys. I'll try to look you up another time and remember to push the red dot on the Smartphone to actually capture the video.

I finally made it home at about 10:30 a.m.  I walked in  the front door and headed straight for the kitchen.  After a breakfast of juice, eggs, and toast, all I could think of was a nap. I'm a grandma (actually Grams), I'm 71 as of last October 13, I'm entitled to a nap. But what about my tailgating ticket? Didn't I owe it to my new best friends to head back to the Platinum parking lot?

Naptime won.  I woke up in time to see Jason Allen intercept a Jaguar pass in the 4th quarter. The Texans won 24-14. Here are some NFL highlights in case you slept through the game like I did.

I hope my new best friends in the Platinum lot will let me tailgate with them next Sunday when the Texans play the Browns. I'll make sure I get a good night's sleep first.