Let's Do Some Boatgating!

Published in the August 2013 Issue August 2013 Brady L. Kay

Heading into fall, it’s natural for boaters to be concerned that the season is quickly coming to an end. The kids are heading back to school and all your summer vacation time has somehow disappeared. While August and September can be two of the greatest boating months of the year, we all know that Old Man Winter is just on the horizon. But there is one thing that can make me actually look forward to the end of summer and that’s football season!

Football has some of the most passionate fans in the world and don’t even try to bring up soccer. If God wanted us to play soccer he wouldn’t have given us arms. Real football is played between the hash marks. But as great as football is, there is actually a way to make it even better that doesn’t include selling a kidney so you can purchase NFL Sunday Ticket.

If you think tailgating before a big college or pro game is a lot of fun, have you considered boatgating? Boatgating, the combination of two American pastimes—boating and tailgating—is still one of the most unique ways to enjoy game day at stadiums across the country.

There are actually quite a few waterside stadiums that offer a unique twist on America’s tailgating tradition. It’s a way for boaters and sports fans to experience the tradition of tailgating with an extra element of fun. Game day starts and ends with a relaxing cruise on the water, which is much more enjoyable than sitting in post-game traffic. For those pontoon or deck boat owners who happen to have a grill onboard, boatgating becomes even more convenient. Forget about lugging your grill, chairs or other cooking gear, it’s already onboard! 

For college football fans, it’s hard to beat Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. Even if you’re not a fan of the University of Tennessee, the Vol Navy is worth experiencing. On the banks of the Tennessee River, Volunteer Landing is a three-mile river walk in downtown Knoxville that includes a visitor center, full-service marina and restaurants. For home football games, expect plenty of boats tied up and grills fired amidst a sea of orange and white.

As for NFL fans, Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pa., where the Steelers play is a great option. The stadium is situated on the banks of the city’s famed three rivers—Monongahela, Ohio and Allegheny. Here you can  avoid car traffic and arrive by boat and join a dedicated fan base on the water, including many who arrive days in advance to secure prime spots on the wharf. 

However, my first choice would be boatgating with Bears fans outside of Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. A Soldier Field tailgate takes on new meaning when you discover one of the best kept secrets in Chicago—getting to the game by boat. Located just east of Soldier Field, Burnham Harbor has 1,120 slips in a protected cove on Lake Michigan.

These are just three of my favorites with plenty of other great boat-friendly stadiums out there. Get out this fall and celebrate the end of summer by boatgating with some of the greatest football fans on the planet. Just be sure to do it responsibly so it remains fun for everyone.

“If God wanted us to play soccer he wouldn’t have given us arms.”  

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